Carbon emissions fall substantially post pandemic

The year 2020 has been quite unlike any year in the past century. There have been many crises in the past hundred years but none of them have had such diverse effects at such a large scale globally. In the early days of the pandemic, when worldwide curbs were implemented to stop the infection spreading, economic activities had come to a standstill, which in turn also reduced commercial carbon emissions.

Right from the beginning, predictions were made but now several studies have proved that freezing economic activity and banning travel has indeed resulted in a massive drop of carbon emissions. According to Carbon Monitor, global carbon emissions have fallen by 6.6% as compared to August 31, 2019.

Reduction in use of ground transport has been found to be the greatest contributor of this drop. Almost half of the overall change has been attributed to lower use of ground transport which has dropped by 17% on 2019. Spain has recorded the greatest drop in carbon emissions at -17.2%. Carbon emissions have dropped by 13.4% and 12.9% in India and US respectively. China and Japan, where the economic freeze was considerably limited experienced a decline by 2.1% and 7.1% respectively, as per research conducted.

According to a ScienceDaily article, the unprecedented decline in the global carbon emissions is larger than those of 2008 (financial crisis), 1979 (oil crisis), or even the Second World War. The researchers claim that this is a good starting point to usher new policies boosting renewable energy in order to stabilize the carbon emissions in the long run.

However, since the time the numbers for fall in carbon emissions have come in, divergent views have emerged. Many people are celebrating this as an achievement towards attaining climate change goals, while the climate change experts are of the view that a lot more must be done to achieve zero carbon emission goals.

According to a HT article, this fall in global carbon emissions did not have any impact on global CO2 concentrations. In fact, atmospheric CO2 concentrations that are already at higher levels, hit new records in 2020. Climate scientists explained that Carbon dioxide has an extremely long life-time – about 40% of CO2 emitted till date will remain in the atmosphere after hundred years and around 20% will stay even after one thousand years.

Hence, temporary drops in carbon emissions will not have any effect of atmosphere’s CO2 concentrations. Explaining the scenario further, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology’s climate scientist, Roxy Mathew Koll opined, that the damage has already been done and any attempt to curb or stop carbon emissions is aimed at stopping it to worsen any further.

Global climate experts largely support this view and advocate that the carbon emissions must be further curbed at an accelerated speed in order to meet the 2-degree Celsius target set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The world must take learnings from the months of the pandemic and then workout new ways to curb carbon emissions because stopping economic activity is not an option to reduce carbon emissions.

The first six months of 2020, the same period that witnessed carbon emission drop also experienced a surge in generation of renewable energy globally. Thus, in order to keep progressing economically while curbing CO2 emissions, the world needs to switch to renewable energy and aim at achieving zero carbon emissions to reach the global climate goals by 2030.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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