Carbon and Coronavirus

There has been an exponential increase in CO2 emissions over the last century. This increase has contributed to warming in the atmosphere, which causes an increase in severe weather events, such as droughts, floods, and storms, which in turn causes food, water, and shelter insecurity for people, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and plant and animal species. In conflict areas, climate change is recognized as a “threat multiplier.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that unless we severely cut emissions within this decade and limit warming to 1.5C over pre-industrial levels,, the damage to our planet will be irreversible. While other major world events (wars, depressions, oil shocks, etc.) have caused emission levels to fall temporarily, there has been a sustained trajectory of increasing emissions. Today, the global stay-at-home orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic have caused the largest drop in emissions ever. It remains to be seen whether the global response to the pandemic will focus on maintaining the downward trajectory.

The article Climate change and coronavirus: Five charts about the biggest carbon crash gives important details about this phenomenon, which we highlight here for you. Click the article link to read more.

  • It is projected that emissions this year will fall by 4-8%
  • To keep the world on track to stay under the recommended 1.5 degrees of warming this century, we will need to cut emissions by this much every year, until net-zero emissions are reached around 2050.
  • There are variations in emissions reductions between cities. For example, Paris dropped by 72%, while New York City dropped by 10%. This reveals that much of the emission problem stems from structural issues like heating buildings with fossil fuels (which NYC does more than Paris), rather than personal behavior like car driving.
  • It is hoped that the recovery to this pandemic will emphasize sustainable energy, though "At this point, we do not see any clear signs that the pandemic and our societal response to it will lead to significant and permanent changes in the path of future global emissions," said Robbie Andrew from Cicero.
  • We need policies that prioritize a “green focus” in all recovery plans.
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