Silver Lining to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Early in the worldwide shutdown due to the spread of covid-19, I saw two photos of Delhi, India that floored me. One showed the city before economic activity was greatly scaled back--a smogged-in city--and the other of the city days later--blue sky visible. When was the last time blue sky had been seen in Delhi? Many people have remarked on the environmental benefit of the virus crisis. In many sectors, energy use and therefore pollution is down, in some, way down, like the airline industry.
Carbon emissions declined by an estimated 17% across the world in April. Just how significant is that? It's certainly highly significant for the economy, and almost entirely negative (Wal Mart and Home Depot are doing great). Do we at least get a reprieve from the increase in annual carbon emissions? Yes, it appears we will, perhaps around 5% by the end of 2020. By my reckoning, that would be only the second time we've seen an annual decrease, and while that represents a lot of carbon not sent into the atmosphere, it's not the -8% the UN says is needed year after year to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And once the economy gets rolling again, there is little reason to think the decrease will continue. So, tremendous pain, little gain, is the takeaway from this pandemic. Any silver lining is microscopically thin.
As the article below says, behavior changes are less significant in reducing carbon output than might be expected. Broad "structural change" in energy use is mandatory. Although the topic isn't addressed in the article, this is also where advocates of climate engineering or geoengineering come in to say we need to face the facts: we can't have the advanced economy we cherish unless we lower the planet's thermostat. We might not know exactly how best to do that, but we can probably succeed through trial and error. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate- ... rc404=true