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Mon Apr 20, 2020, 07:18 AM

COVID Could Cut Global CO2 Output By 5%; Unfortunately, It Needs To Fall 7.6% Every Year For 1.5C

A growing number of prognosticators expect that global carbon dioxide emissions could fall 5% this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, amounting to the largest annual reduction on record. But climate researchers say there is little reason for celebration, for people or the planet.

CO2 is a long-lived gas. An annual drop in emissions, even one of historic proportions, is unlikely to dramatically change the concentrations of carbon dioxide swirling around Earth's atmosphere. Then there is the nature of the reductions. Few think draconian economic lockdowns, like those implemented to halt the virus's spread, represent a viable decarbonization strategy.

Mostly, the emissions projections show just how much work the world needs to do to green the economy. Holding global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius, for instance, would require annual emission reductions of 7.6%, according to the United Nations' projections. "If this is all we get from shutting the entire world down, it illustrates the scope and scale of the climate challenge, which is fundamentally changing the way we make and use energy and products," said Costa Samaras, a professor who studies climate and energy systems at Carnegie Mellon University.

A host of forecasters have produced emission estimates in recent weeks as the world has rushed to understand the fallout from the pandemic. In late March, the Breakthrough Institute predicted global emissions would be down 0.5% to 2.2%. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects energy-related emissions in America to decline by 7.5% this year, in large part driven by a drop in vehicle miles traveled and a decline in coal generation, which is pushed to the margins by falling electricity demand.



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