Carbon Emissions May Fall Just 4% Despite Halt of Global Economy

By Anshul Dash

Due to recent efforts by many countries to weaken and halt the spread of the coronavirus, the global economy has started to slow down, consequently impacting carbon emissions.

GDPs of prominent countries such as China have been affected. China’s GDP decreased by 40% during the first three months of this year. By this summer, the U.S.’ GDP could drop by 30%-50%. This quarter alone, the UK’s GDP could drop by 25%. There are current hopes that the global economy will quickly recover once the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, but the annual output is still likely to decline in many nations. According to one estimate, America’s GDP may fall by about 5%.

So how does this drop in GDP affect carbon emissions?

According to a new estimate by CarbonBrief, based on an analysis of data sets that represent about three-quarters of worldwide emissions, carbon emissions are predicted to decrease by 4% in 2020. This is the largest annual decline brought about by any economic recession or war. However, it undermines how difficult it is for the world to cut emissions quickly enough to combat climate change.

To prevent a 1.5 ˚C increase in global temperature, the world would need to cut emissions by 6% each year in the next decade. Even if the economy is shut down for months, including global trade, travel, and construction, nations may still not be able to decrease climate pollution enough this year to be on track to prevent the increase of warming, which would otherwise prove to be dangerous. Since economies have recovered after previous recessions, it’s likely that the global economy will recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since economies today are more diverse than they were decades ago.

However, the 4% decline is a rough estimate due to limited data, and is subject to change depending on how the outbreak unfolds and how economies react in the weeks and months to come. The relationship between economic declines and emissions declines will also depend on which industries are ultimately hit the hardest. Hospitality and entertainment, for instance, could see greater losses than the more carbon-intensive power sector.

However, this finding underscores the limits of lifestyle changes and reductions in consumer demand that have been brought by the pandemic, such as cutting down on car trips and plane travel. It serves as an important reminder that we need to change our habits on how we generate electricity, manufacture goods, produce food, and get around.

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