Over the past two months, the internet is flooded with assumptions that the Coronavirus is nature’s way of fighting climate change. Well, this might come true to some extent as a group of researchers have confirmed that the wave of lockdowns due to Coronavirus has helped in bringing the carbon dioxide emissions down. However, the environmental gains may be short-lived.
As more than 187 countries went on a complete lockdown during January-April to contain the deadly virus, the environment experienced an abrupt reduction in CO2 from driving, flying, and industrial wastes.
A group of scientists from Europe, the United States and Australia, analysed daily CO2 emissions across 69 countries, all 50 US states and 30 Chinese provinces which accounts for 97% of global emissions.
The study found a peak decline of 17% in daily emissions between January and early April compared with the mean 2019 levels.
China, where the confinement started, saw the largest drop in emissions, followed by the United States, Europe and India.
Researchers say the global carbon dioxide emissions could fall by up to 7% this year, depending on the imposed restrictions and social distancing measures by the governments during the rest of the year.
If the pandemic conditions return by mid-June, then the emissions could decline by 4%, but if restrictions remain worldwide until the end of the year, then emissions could drop by 7%. These figures would mark the largest annual decrease in carbon emissions since World War II.
“Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions,” said Corinne Le Quéré, the lead author of the study and director of Britain’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research.
“These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary, however, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport, or energy systems,” she added.
Le Quéré said she expected to find even larger reductions in the power and industrial sectors during the pandemic. Instead, she said, many sources of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have continued steadily, almost on autopilot, even as much of the world has ground to a halt.
Emissions from surface transport, power and industry were the most affected sectors accounting for 86% of the total reduction in global emissions. CO2 emissions declined by 60% in the aviation sector, which yielded the largest relative anomaly of any sector, and by 21% in the public sector.
According to United Nations Environment projections, we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 7.6% every single year between now and 2030 to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.