The Covid-19 lockdown gave the Earth a much-needed respite from greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, but a new study found that this brief spell from planetary house gas emissions and air pollutants would have little or no effect on the planet’s climate crisis. That said, the post-lockdown economic recovery plan could give the global economy a rare opportunity to return to a more environmentally friendly future that could meet some of the optimistic goals set by the Paris Agreement.
The Earth has been considered to be around 1.1 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, with a further forecast of 0.2 degrees Celsius to 0.9 degrees Celsius by 2050. The bigger challenge is to limit the pre-temperature above the previous 1.5 degrees Celsius to the industrial level by 2050 or if it is not achieved, then limit it to a maximum of 2˚C. Despite the significant but low-lasting drop in emissions, new research shows that ongoing lockdown measures will reduce global warming from 0.01°C to 0.005°C by 2030, more than expected. In other words, the long-term effects of lockdown on climate change are disappointingly negligible.
However, the study further argues that if the global economy moves out of the locks with a green economic recovery plan, it is possible to increase the world by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the middle of this century.
Piers Forster, study author and a professor of Physical Climate Change at the University of Leeds, said in a statement, “Current selections could provide a strong opportunity to avoid 0.3.C of additional warming by the middle of the current century, halving the expected warming under the current policy. It can tell the difference between success and failure in avoiding dangerous climate change. “
As reported in the journal Nature Climate Change this week, UK scientists looked at NASA simulations combined with data on human movements gathered by Apple and Google to calculate how 10 different greenhouse gases and air pollutants changed between February and June 2020 in 123 countries. They found that mobility dropped by more than 10 percent in one of the 125 countries tracked in April 2020, while mobility dropped by 70 percent in five or more countries.
As of April 2020, it has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and other emissions by 10 to 30 percent worldwide. However, the overall impact of the Earth’s climate will be neglected because many emissions, significantly CO2, remain stable in the atmosphere for a long time. In addition, pollution levels are already returning to normal in many parts of the world.
Now comes for the future. As most people around the world put together their post-lockdown economic recovery plans, the study argues that we can realize the opportunity to rebuild the economy by increasing renewable and energy efficiency rather than discounting the fossil fuel industry. As a result, it will be possible for the planet to meet some of its desired climate goals and avoid some of the harshest conditions of climate change. Whether that will happen, however, remains to be seen.
Professor Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and executive director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study said, “Where this study should really focus on the mind, we should focus on what we want to happen.”
He added, “Choose a strong green recovery of renewable and energy efficiency, and the potential to meet Paris climate goals and avoid the effects of catastrophic climate change for millions of people.” “Choose a climate-blind recovery of fossil fuels and high carbon bailouts and we have advanced temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius and impending hazards to the next generation for global warming.”