Carbon dioxide emissions could fall by the largest amount in over 70 years as a result of the current global pandemic, scientists have said.
The chair of the Global Carbon Project, which produces annual emissions estimates, said carbon output could fall by more than 5% year-on-year – a figure which hasn’t been seen since the end of World War II.
This would also be the first drop in emissions since a smaller, 1.4% reduction following the 2008 financial crisis, according to experts.
Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California, told Reuters he ‘wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5% or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War Two’.
Neither the fall of the Soviet Union nor the various oil or savings and loan crises of the past 50 years are likely to have affected emissions the way this crisis is.
This predicted fall in carbon emissions would come after several countries around the world imposed strict confinement measures to help healthcare systems tackle the pandemic, with travel and industrial activity largely being brought to a halt.
Already, countries worldwide are reporting dramatic improvements in air quality, with satellite observations indicating steep falls in nitrogen dioxide emissions in countries such as China and Italy.
While this prediction looks set to bring a positive change to the environment, the fall in carbon emissions won’t have come as a result of positive steps being made from world governments.
Instead, it will have come at the cost of a global crisis and public health emergency, which has so far cost the lives of more than 60,000 people around the world, according to the Johns Hopkins Resource Center.
In addition, if these governments don’t start making major structural change, experts warn this decline in emissions could be short-lived and have little impact on the concentrations of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere over decades.
Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in eastern England, said:
This drop is not due to structural changes so as soon as confinement ends, I expect the emissions will go back close to where they were.
According to Professor Jackson, world greenhouse gas emissions shot back up by a massive 5.1% after initially dipping in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.
This pattern of a swift rebound has already begun in China, where emissions fell by an estimated 25% as people across the country went into self-isolation earlier this year, though these have since returned to within a normal range.
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