There has been widespread coverage in the press this week of the drop in fossil fuel consumption and related CO2 emissions, mainly due to fleets of aircraft, ships and cars being parked, but also due to the reduction in demand globally due to the economic slowdown. Carbon Tracker estimated that we could see CO2 emissions drop by 4% in 2020, which along with other events this year, would be unprecedented in post WWII times.
This shows that concerted global action on a crisis can have a meaningful impact, but it is still short of the annual reduction needed to to limit global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures (which would need to be closer to 7.5%).
While it may be too soon to fully assess the impact as some data has not yet been published and there will be a lag between actions and effects, we should be able to get a more accurate view on the COVID-19 impact on global emissions before the end of the year.
The crisis shows us what we already knew to be true (inaction and inertia are hard to break out of), but it also gives us cause for hope. We do have the power to act, it does not need to be precipitated by a crisis.
If we could focus across every industry on investment in efficient energy systems, sustainable business practices and building a community that lives in harmony with nature, exploiting it in the fewest possible ways, then we could take this crisis as an impetus for change.
We are all connected; more so than ever before. But we are also more individualistic than ever before. This crisis has shown us that we cannot live in isolation. Climate, viruses and extreme weather events do not respect human borders. If we can take such radical measures to stop the spread of a virus, we can take such steps to safeguard our future and our children’s future.