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New estimates highlight global economic and environmental impacts of COVID-19

Global consumption loss due to the pandemic amounts to an estimated $3.8 trillion.

Tables of a restaurant on the street

The arrival of the pandemic has caused millionaire losses of income. / Photo: Pexels

EurkAlert | PLOS

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Leer en español: ¿Cuáles son los impactos económicos y ambientales globales del COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an estimated global consumption loss of $3.8 trillion, as well as significant job and income loss. However, these socioeconomic effects are accompanied by notable estimated reductions in air pollution. Manfred Lenzen of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on July 9, 2020.

Beyond its health effects, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have resulted in major social and economic losses worldwide. While some regions, such as China and the U.S., have experienced greater direct economic effects than others, the entire world economy has been impacted through international trade links.

To help clarify the global socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, Lenzen and colleagues applied an economic modeling approach known as multi-region input-output (MRIO) analysis to data on losses experienced by global businesses as a direct consequence of the pandemic. The MRIO approach enabled the researchers to account for how losses in individual countries impact the entire global economy through international supply chains.

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The analysis revealed that the pandemic has resulted in an estimated global consumption loss of $3.8 trillion, accompanied by job losses equivalent to 147 million full-time positions, as well as a loss of $2.1 trillion in wages and salaries.

As a silver lining, however, decreases in production and air travel have resulted in environmental benefits. The MRIO analysis estimates a 2.5 metric gigaton reduction in greenhouse gasses, as well as significant reductions for other air pollutants, including PM2.5, sulfur dioxide, and NOx gases.

The authors note that decisions made in response to the ongoing pandemic could shape the future of humanity. They outline a choice between returning to "business as usual," which could leave humanity vulnerable to additional crises, or altering the global economy with an eye towards sustainability and resiliency.

Co-author Arunima Malik summarizes: "Our study highlights the interconnected nature of international supply chains, with observable global spillover effects across a range of industry sectors, such as manufacturing, tourism and transport."

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