UK scientists: ‘Corona will not save the climate’
The emissions of greenhouse gases have decreased in the first four months of the year. But what are the effects on global warming? Greenhouse gases indeed went down spectacularly due to the corona measures. Plants were shut down, car traffic diminished, and most airplanes were grounded.
Impact on climate
The impact on the climate was unknown until recently. A group of scientists from the University of East Anglia (East of England) used a new way of measuring CO2 emissions. This way, they succeeded in mapping the daily emissions and comparing them to the same period one year ago.
They used data from 69 countries, the 50 states of the US, 30 provinces in China, six economic sectors, and three levels of lockdown. The conclusion was that emissions were 17% lower than in 2019. Last year, about 100 million tons of CO2 were emitted. This year in April, this figure was ‘only’ 83 million.
In some countries, the incline was even 40%. In Belgium, at a particular moment, 27% was measured. Total emission levels went down to the figures for 2006. Of course, the billion-dollar question remains: what does it mean for our climate?
The first question is: how will the crisis evolve? When the situation more or less normalizes again within one month, the emissions saved will represent 4% every year. When this only happens by the end of the year, it will be up to 7%. However, will it have a structural effect on global warming? Anyway, the situation shows what a challenge the world is facing.
If we want to limit global warming to 1,5°C – like stipulated in the Paris Climate Agreement – emissions should be reduced by 7,6% annually, which means almost a permanent lockdown.
The scientists, therefore, warn politicians to make the right choices. “They will largely decide the CO2 emissions of the coming decades,” Corinne Le Quéré, who leads the project, says. After the financial crisis of 2008, the wrong choices were made. As a consequence, emissions decreased by 1,5% in 2009 but increased by 5,1% in 2010. “So, let’s hope this time, the right choices will be made.”
Wind and solar energy
However, there also are reasons to be carefully optimistic. Renewable energy is doing well, and fossil fuels are on the way down. The declining demand for electricity also brings down the use of coal. Analysts even assume the pandemic will accelerate the job losses in the coal industry.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), wind and solar energy are best protected against this crisis.
Another remarkable aspect is that cities all over the world are reorganizing their traffic infrastructure. Cyclists get more space, and cities introduce bicycle paths and zones. The scientists also hope that teleworking will become the new standard.