As several countries gradually continue to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, they have eased numerous lockdown restrictions, both on civilians and companies. In order to compensate for the massive economic losses suffered during the lockdown period, many sectors are being pushed to combat these losses currently. One such sector is the energy industry: with fossil fuels taking a big hit, many companies have been permitted to sidestep guidelines in order to abate losses. However, the rate at which fossil fuels are being burned is surprising many scientists.
As SBS News explains, “in April, fossil fuel combustion was roughly 17 percent lower than they were in 2019, as governments ordered people to stay home, employees stopped driving to work, factories idled, and airlines grounded their flights… by mid-June, as countries eased their lockdowns, emissions had ticked up to just 5 percent below the 2019 average.” In many countries, current carbon emissions have already matched the amount before the beginning of the pandemic.
However, there is some good news for climate change activists: experts estimate that 2020 emission levels will be 4-7 percent lower than that of 2019. This would be a historic period — as scientists Rob Jackson puts it — “A 5 percent change in global emissions is enormous, we haven’t seen a drop like that since at least World War II.”
While the effects of the pandemic on energy use may have provided us with an opportunity to improve our methods of energy consumption overall, ultimately, this seems unlikely on a global stage. Worldwide, economies have been hit hard, and a rapid financial revival is imperative for almost all nations — the easiest way to achieve this would be through permitting non-renewable, less green techniques that would undoubtedly provide immediate economic benefits, but would also negatively impact the climate in the long run. While many cities have taken steps to implement eco-friendly modes of energy use and transportation — like Paris and Milan, who have introduced more bike lanes — these are just small steps that may be outweighed by the bigger picture. As Professor David Victor states, “Many governments are scrambling to recover economically and not paying as much attention to the environment.”
Thus, the seemingly reduced threat of the virus in many nations has led to an ease of numerous restrictions, allowing for the swift return of many non-renewable sources of energy. While this may pose a benefit upon first glance, the dire economic states of many nations will need to be addressed, therefore permitting increased fossil fuel use.