GHG Emissions - April 3, 2020
Coronavirus causes largest emissions drop since WWII, but they will bounce back
The Global Carbon Project estimates that global carbon emissions could fall by the largest amount since World War Two this year as a result of the coronavirus-induced economic crisis, but if the world doesn’t take drastic action those emissions will rebound when the crisis is over.
Reuters reports that carbon output could fall by more than 5% year-on-year, which would be the first dip since emissions dropped 1.4% following the 2008 financial crisis. However, following the crisis emissions eventually increased again by 5.1% and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was practically unaffected.
“This drop is not due to structural changes so as soon as confinement ends, I expect the emissions will go back close to where they were,” Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in eastern England, told the news site.
They also reported that during lockdowns in China, emissions in the region fell by an estimated 25%. As Chinese factories have begun to reopen, emissions have returned to their normal range.
Last month a research director from the Center of International Climate Research in Oslo predicted that emissions would fall between 0.3% and 1.2% this year. Following that, a research center in California, the Breakthrough Institute, released their own predictions: emissions would fall 0.5-2.2%, based on growth forecasts from JP Morgan and assuming that the economy recovers in the second half of the year.
“Our estimates indicate that the pandemic’s climate silver lining is vanishingly thin,” Seaver Wang, a climate and energy analyst at the institute, told Reuters. “It’s as if we went back in time and emitted the same amount we were a few years ago — which was already too much. In the grand scheme of things, it really makes no difference.”
More grim predictions come from the Centre for Economics and Business Research, who estimates that world GDP will fall by at least 4% this year, including a large margin of error, the largest fall since 1931.
“Even if there is a decline in emissions in 2020, let’s say 10% or 20%, it’s not negligible, it’s important, but from a climate point of view, it would be a small dent if emissions go back to pre-COVID-19 crisis levels in 2021,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, chair in mathematical modeling of the climate system at the University of Exeter in southwest England.
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