The University of Sydney has quantified the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The first comprehensive study of the pandemic suggests consumption losses will amount to more than US$3.8 trillion, triggering full-time equivalent job losses of 147 million and the biggest-ever drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

The study found that the most directly hit would be the travel sector and regions of Asia, Europe, the United States, with cascading multiplier effects across the entire world economy because of globalisation.

The loss of connectivity imposed to prevent the virus spreading appears to be triggering an economic ‘contagion’, causing major disruptions to trade, tourism, energy and finance sectors, while easing environmental pressures most in some of the hardest-hit areas.

The study focused on ‘live’ data to 22 May, differing from most assessments of the economic impacts of the pandemic based on scenario analyses and/or projections – and it is the first to provide an overview of the combined economic, social and environmental impacts, including indirect effects, of the coronavirus.

The findings have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The key economic and environmental reductions include:

  • Consumption: US$3.8 trillion
  • Jobs: 147m (4.2 percent of the global workforce)
  • Income from wages and salaries: $2.1 trillion (6 percent)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: 2.5Gt (4.6 percent) – larger than any drop in human history
  • PM2.5: Dangerously fine particulate matter emissions fall 0.6 Mt (3.8 percent)
  • SO2 & NOx: Sulphur dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels – which has been linked to asthma and chest tightness – and emissions from nitrogen oxide – from fuel combustion, for example, driving cars – fall 5.1 Mt (2.9 percent).