Pandemic emissions drop largest in modern history, study finds

James Marshall
October 15, 2020

Global emissions fell by 8.8 per cent in the first half of the year amid restrictions on movement and economic activity owing to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report. It also suggests what fundamental steps could be taken to stabilize the global climate in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Zhu Liu from the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing said the study was the most accurate yet undertaken on the pandemic's effect on emissions.

The lockdown measures during various outbreaks resulted in emission drops that are normally seen only on a short-term basis on holidays such as Christmas or the Chinese Spring Festival, they said.

The greatest reduction of emissions was observed in the ground transportation sector, explained Daniel Kammen, professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the US. The drop was also larger than the annual decrease during World War Two, although mean emissions are much bigger now than at that time.

Based on figures for electricity production, vehicle traffic in more than 400 cities around the world, the number of flights, and production and consumption, they concluded that this drop in emissions was the most significant in the world. recent history.

"While the drop in Carbon dioxide emissions is unprecedented, the drop in human activities can not be the answer", says study co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "We need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems", he said. They also found strong rebound effects.

CO2 emissions from transport plunged 40% in the first half of the year, those from energy production by 22% and those from industry by 17%, according to the study. Even though carbon dioxide emissions are lower than usual, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is still increasing due to continued fossil fuel consumption.

The authors of Wednesday's study agreed with the writers of similar research released in August claiming that the 2020 emissions dip was unlikely to ease the climate emergency in the long term.

They said nothing less than a "complete overhaul" of the industry and commerce would keep a handle on global warming.

"This is more dramatic than the financial crisis", said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director emeritus for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and an author of the paper.

"We need structural and transformational changes in our energy production and consumption systems". "Individual behavior is certainly important, but what we really need to focus on is reducing the carbon intensity of our global economy".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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