As people around the world stay at home, air pollution decreases and sightings of urban wildlife increase.
- This is the first analysis to measure the global drop caused by pandemics in carbon dioxide emissions.
- 2020 is still on track to be one of the five warmest years on record.
- In the USA, California and Washington, there was the biggest decline in emissions.
O coronavirus blocks had an "extreme" effect on daily carbon emissions, causing a colossal drop of 17% globally during peak confinement measures in early April – levels last seen in 2006.
However, it is unlikely to last, according to a new analysis by an international team of scientists, who said the brief stoppage of pollution is likely to be "a drop in the ocean" when it comes to climate change.
This is the first analysis to measure the global drop caused by pandemics in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from January to April this year.
Carbon dioxide, emitted by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, is the greenhouse gas most responsible for global warming. It remains in the atmosphere for about a century before it dissipates.
While the impact of blocking measures is likely to lead to the largest annual emission reduction since the end of World War II, 2020 is still on track. one of the five hottest years on record, and the study notes that these reductions are not a "silver coating".
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The study was published in the British peer-reviewed journal Nature's climate change.
Daily emissions decreased by 17%, or 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, globally during peak containment measures in early April, dropping to the levels last seen in 2006. (Photo: Getty Images)
Teacher Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia, UK, led the analysis. She said that “the confinement of the population has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions. These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transportation or energy systems ".
"The extent to which world leaders consider climate change when planning their post-COVID-19 economic responses will influence the global path of CO2 emissions in the coming decades," she said.
For a week in April, the United States reduced its carbon dioxide levels by about a third. China, the world's largest emitter of gases that capture heat, reduced its carbon pollution by almost a quarter in February. India and Europe reduced emissions by 26% and 27%, respectively.
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This annual drop is comparable to the amount of annual emission reductions needed year after year over decades to achieve the climate goals of the UN Paris Agreement.
The study's co-author, Rob Jackson, from Stanford University, said: "The drop in emissions is substantial, but it illustrates the challenge of reaching our climate commitments in Paris. We need systemic changes through green energy and electric cars, no temporary reductions in imposed behavior ".
External experts praised the study as the most comprehensive to date, saying it shows how much effort is needed to avoid dangerous levels of further global warming.
"This underscores a simple truth: individual behavior alone … will not get us there," said the climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. Michael Mann, who were not part of the study. "We need fundamental structural changes."
Some of the main conclusions of the report include:
• The total estimated change in pandemic emissions reached 1,048 million tons of carbon dioxide by the end of April. The biggest reduction in emissions occurred in China, followed by the USA, Europe and India.
• In the USA, California and Washington, there was the biggest decline in emissions.
• Surface transport emissions, such as car travel, accounted for almost half (43%) of the reduction in global emissions during the confinement peak on April 7.
• Pollution levels are rising again – and the year will end at 4% to 7% below 2019 levels, depending on the duration of the blockade and the extent of the recovery.
Contribution: Associated Press
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