Numerous countries around the world have been on lockdown for weeks, and environmentalists have seen a decline in carbon dioxide emissions. However, these improvements may be short-lived if experts will take into account what happened after past crises.
Will the improvement last?
An international study found that daily global carbon emissions declined 17% between January 2020 and early April 2020, compared to the 4.4% to 8% decline from January to December of 2019. The latest figure marks the largest decrease in carbon emissions since World War II.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Climate Change. There is still no clear prediction as to when the pandemic will last and how severe it will be, and this also makes it unclear how long the decline in global carbon emission improves.
Since the changes have not really fundamentally changed the energy or the economy that the world relies on, experts believe that the improvement is only temporary. Not only that, the year 2020 is still one of the hottest years on record.
According to Rob Jackson, co-author of the study and professor at Stanford University's Earth Science Systems department, it is still too early to celebrate the decline in carbon dioxide emissions since it only happened due to forced behavior and unemployment.
The study focused on 69 countries, 30 Chinese provinces, and all 50 states in America, which all account for 85% of the world population and 97% of all global carbon dioxide emissions. Since there are no real-time carbon emissions data that exists, the researchers made their own algorithm.
The researchers created a confinement index that was based on the severity of pandemic policies. They used the confinement index to study the daily data from six sectors of the economy that contribute to carbon emissions, including aviation, transportation, commerce, and industry.
Researchers were able to predict the changes in daily emissions by using the confinement index, as it showed how severe the lockdowns in countries are and the overall data on decreases in activities that produce carbon emissions.
The main reason for carbon reductions were fewer people driving. There is a drop of 50% by the end of April on surface transport activity levels and in aviation, there was a 75% decrease. The researchers predicted that by the end of April, carbon emissions declined by 1,048 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and that is around 2,312,649 pounds.
The largest decline that was recorded was in China, where the carbon emissions dropped 533,500 pounds. In America, the carbon emissions declined by 456,350 pounds. The two countries are the largest carbon emitters worldwide.
What's next for the environment?
Although there have been great changes, how long the changes last and whether it will make a difference in slowing climate change will all depend on what people will do once the pandemic ends. The decline in carbon emissions is a result of forced change and not because global economies and energy were restructured.
According to the United Nations Environment projections, in order to keep the temperatures from rising, carbon emissions must be reduced up to 7.6% every year between 2020 and 2030. Unfortunately, Jackson said that there is a change that after the pandemic, the carbon emissions will rise again.
The global crisis in 2008-2009 helped decrease the global emission for up to 1.4%, but in 2019 it shot back up to 5%. Jackson added that people can't rely on a pandemic or a crisis to solve climate change, there should be a restructure on global energy and economy.