COVID Pandemic-19 Shows Telecommuting Can Help Fight Climate Change

To work out the emissions impact of teleworking, researchers have to consider several factors that can vary from city to city: how people get to work on a normal commute, how far they travel, how much commercial and residential electricity use changes and what power sources are involved, says Constantine Samaras, director of the Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation at Carnegie Mellon University. Working remotely is more likely to have a benefit where it replaces commuting by car, for example. On the electricity side, if teleworking leads to more electricity use in an area and requires additional coal-fueled power plants to come online, it could outweigh the emissions reductions from not driving, says Kenneth Gillingham, an environmental and energy economist at Yale University and lead author of the Joule analysis. On the other hand, if that added electricity comes from renewable energy, telecommuting could offer more significant emissions reductions.