When will the lockdowns end? It’s a question being urgently asked across the world, as governments struggle to contain both the coronavirus pandemic itself and the resulting economic fallout.
The longer it goes on, the deeper the impact on carbon emissions. Many countries have made progress in recent years decoupling
their economic growth from rising emissions. But it still remains the case that a sharp economic downturn typically leads to a near-immediate fall in emissions.
published today by Carbon Brief places the ongoing crisis in historical context. The data is still coming in all the time, but early indications suggest that Covid-19 will cause global CO2 emissions to experience their largest ever annual decline this year, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war (see above).
But even this stunning decline is not enough to put the world on course for achieving the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C aspirational climate goal. The current decline would need to increase by almost half again to see the scale of reductions required. And that level would then need to be repeated for each year of this decade. Sobering.
So let’s hope we don’t need a global pandemic every year to limit global warming to 1.5C.
Remarkably, amid the Covid-19 crisis, some elections are still taking place around the world. Next week, for example, South Koreans head to the polls in a pivotal election for climate policy.
As explained in a new in-depth Carbon Brief country profile
, South Korea’s governing party is pledging to introduce a “green new deal” and a 2050 net-zero emissions goal, if it is re-elected. Such statements of intent would be a first for the region.
However, as the profile highlights, South Korea is currently reliant on coal, with 44% of its electricity generated from this polluting fossil fuel. A further quarter comes from nuclear plants, with mixed signals from both the public and their political representatives about whether to shut them down. Hence, the next government will have some big decisions to make, especially given that renewables only account for a small fraction of the country’s energy mix.
A study covered by Carbon Brief
is the latest in a number of high-profile papers suggesting that widespread wildlife losses could occur this decade unless the world can rapidly reduce its emissions.
With no climate action, tropical ocean ecosystems could face intolerably high temperatures by 2030, says the Nature study. By 2050, tropical forests could also see such conditions.
By comparison, limiting global warming to below 2C could delay the date at which ecosystems are exposed to intolerable temperatures by six decades, it adds.
“By holding warming below 2C, we can effectively ‘flatten the curve’ of how climate risks to biodiversity accumulate over time, delaying the exposure of the most at-risk species by many decades and averting exposure entirely for many thousands of species,” study author Dr Alex Pigot told Carbon Brief.