Pandemic restrictions resulted in an unprecedented drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the first half of 2020 – larger than during the 2008 financial crisis and even World War II – experts said on Wednesday.
When governments ordered lockdowns to try to crush the first wave of Covid-19, CO2 emissions from transport, energy and aviation fell, the international research team said.
Using data such as hourly power generation, vehicle traffic from more than 400 cities around the world, daily passenger flights, and monthly production and consumption figures, they determined that the emissions decline was the largest in modern history.
They suggested some basic steps that could be taken to “stabilize the global climate” if countries are to recover from the economic shock of the pandemic.
However, they found emissions had returned to their usual levels by July 2020 when most nations eased lockdown measures.
Zhu Liu, from the Department of Earth System Science at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the study was the most accurate yet on the impact of the pandemic on emissions.
“We were able to get a much quicker and more accurate overview, including timelines that show how emission reductions were in line with lockdown measures in each country,” said Zhu, lead author of the study published in Nature Communications.
The team found that CO2 emissions from transport decreased by 40 percent in the first half of 2020, and emissions from power generation and industry decreased by 22 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
With more people working from home, the study found a potentially surprising three percent drop in home emissions – something researchers attributed to an unusually warm winter that resulted in lower heat consumption.
“Complete overhaul” required
An international plan to limit global warming, which was set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, aims to limit the rise in temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
The agreement provides for a safer limit of 1.5 degrees warming – something that the United Nations says would require a 7.7 percent annual reduction in emissions for this decade.
The authors of Wednesday’s study agreed with authors of similar research published in August, claiming that 2020 emissions reductions were unlikely to alleviate the climate emergency in the long run.
They said nothing less than a “complete overhaul” of industry and commerce would keep global warming under control.
“Although the CO2 drop is unprecedented, a decrease in human activities cannot be the answer,” said co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, on Wednesday.
“We need structural and transformative changes in our energy generation and consumption systems.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)