May. 25, 2020

Reduced carbon footprint during Covid will have no impact

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the world’s carbon footprint. But hold the phone, don’t break out the champagne, it won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things. That’s the word from climate scientists. 

CO2 emissions have dropped 17 per cent daily compared to this time last year, but scientists caution against the temptation to inflate the significance of a few weeks or months of reduced human activity, at least when it comes to climate change.

A projection for 2020 shows the reduction in emissions to be four- to seven-per-cent smaller this year than in 2019. Even at a seven-per-cent reduction, emissions for 2020 will be roughly the same as 2011, says one of the authors of this study.

After a world's worth of cancelled vacations, eliminated work commutes, shuttered business and virtually extinguished social lives, how is that possible?

The pandemic has led to a temporary drop in emissions related to things like personal transportation, other carbon-intensive practices continue, from supplying homes with electricity, to manufacturing and transporting goods.

If the scenario of a seven-per-cent annual reduction in CO2 emissions were repeated year-over-year for a decade, it would put the world on track for keeping warming to the Paris Agreement's most ambitious target of 1.5 degrees. But experts say that's not the trajectory they expect post-pandemic, as the economy and society re-open.

"We can't just shut down the economy, throw people out of work, have everybody stay in their  homes,” concludes one of the authors of the report.