Coronavirus is Reducing Carbon Emissions, Will it Have a Lasting Impact?
Many major cities around the world are on lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, and we are now finding out what it means to socially distance ourselves or self-quarantine. In this time of uncertainty, we are forced to stay put. Millions are out of either a job or working from home. Factories are closing, staying inside becoming a new norm. People are not driving or flying. Schools and universities are temporarily closing or switching to remote learning platforms. Conferences, music festivals and other public events are being canceled or going virtual.
All at the same time, every one of us still faces choices every day that carry a climate cost. We all are at home and some of us thinking do we use energy wisely? Do we eat more meat-free meals and buy organic? We are still walking the climate walk even though the world we know of is no longer the same.
Carbon Emissions Levels are Falling
While this COVID-19 global pandemic will probably be a setback for global climate change priorities and investments overall, this temporary carbon emission reductions is still notable. The demand for oil is decreased, air travel is not an option for millions. Each household’s carbon footprint is reduced.
According to an analysis from the U.K.-based Carbon Brief provides a tentative estimate that global CO2 emissions are likely to fall by more than 4% from 2019 levels. Still, that's less than the 7.6% the U.N. says is needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In order to get there, scientists say more fundamental changes are needed, like switching to renewable energy.
So What will Happen when the Pandemic Ends?
Some climate scientists hope that this reduction will bring a light on the massive environmental impact of our everyday habits and economic activities. There is nothing to celebrate about the spread of the COVID-19, even it contributes to a decline in carbon emissions. We should also know that, greenhouse gas emissions tend to bounce back shortly after this pandemic ends. Whether or not the current reduction in CO2 is sustained will depend on who gets to reconstruct society after the coronavirus.
We should still fight climate change as our lives depend on it – because they do.