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COVID Pandemic-19 Shows Telecommuting Can Help Fight Climate Change

COVID Pandemic-19 Shows Telecommuting Can Help Fight Climate Change

In cities with relatively clean electricity and long car commutes, widespread telework could reduce greenhouse gas emissions

As COVID-19 forced many workers across the U.S. to move from downtown office towers to spare rooms and kitchen tables, their commutes shrank from an average of almost 30 minutes (often in bumper-to-bumper traffic) to a few steps down the hall. A May survey of 2,500 Americans found that 42 percent were teleworking full-time—one of many dramatic changes wrought by the novel coronavirus. Though experts studying the pandemic’s economic and environmental consequences are clear that there is no silver lining to a disease that has killed more than half a million people and upended the lives of millions of others around the world, some believe the resulting lockdowns may offer lessons to apply to another, slower-moving crisis.

If remote work, for example, remains a permanent fixture for more people in a post-COVID-19 world, it could help put a dent in one of the U.S.’s largest sources of planet-warming emissions.

“Transportation is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other [regulated air] pollutants, so anything we can do to reduce such emissions is good for all of us,” says Patricia Mokhtarian, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who studies travel behavior and telecommuting.
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