Drop in CO2 emissions during pandemic shutdown shows it is possible to achieve Paris Agreement goals

CO2-emissies tijdens pandemische shutdown hebben aangetoond dat ze de uitstoot drastisch kunnen verminderen

Global daily emissions change in 2019 and 2020. Credit: Natural Geosciences (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00965-8

An international team of researchers has discovered that the sudden drop in CO2 Emissions during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that it is possible to reduce emissions enough to meet the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature increase. In their article published in the magazine Natural Geosciences, describe the researchers studying aspects of the sudden drop in CO2 emissions in early 2020 and why they believe their data shows that such reductions are possible in today’s economy. The editors of Natural Geosciences have also published a brief summary of the group’s findings on this new effort in the same journal issue.

During the early days of the pandemic, no one knew how deadly the coronavirus was, or how quickly it could spread. That’s why governments around the world have ordered an immediate lockdown – people stayed at home instead of going to work. As a result, the economy of the word almost came to a standstill. At the time, due to huge reductions in truck and car traffic and factory closures, air pollution was greatly reduced. In this new effort, the researchers took a closer look at CO reduction2 that took place during the first year of the pandemic.

In 2015, countries around the world gathered in Paris and signed pledges to try to reduce the number emission of greenhouse gasses to the extent that the average temperature on Earth would not rise above 2 degrees Celsius – they also agreed in less concrete terms to try to prevent the temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Since that time, multiple research efforts have shown that, based on current efforts, the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius will not be met.

CO2-emissies tijdens pandemische shutdown hebben aangetoond dat ze de uitstoot drastisch kunnen verminderen

Daily CO2 emissions for the four highest emitting regions (China, United States, EU27 & UK, India) in 2019 and 2020. Credit: Natural Geosciences (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00987-2

The researchers found a 6.3% decrease in 2020, which was 2,200 tons less than the year before. The researchers describe the drop as the largest in modern times, and big enough to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target if sustained. But of course it was not sustained. Once restrictions were lifted, people went back to work and CO. levels2 Emissions rose to levels measured before the pandemic began.

The researchers suggest that the 2020 reductions demonstrate that the goals of the Paris Agreement are possible, noting that it could be possible to make similar reductions without massive disruption to the global economy. Most of the drop in 2020, a third of that, they note, was due to a significant reduction in car and truck traffic. If countries around the world put more pressure on automakers and consumers, electric vehicles powered by sustainably generated electricity could become the norm, bringing targets such as 1.5 degrees Celsius back within reach.


Assessment suggests current global efforts are insufficient to limit warming to 1.5°C


More information:
Zhu Liu et al, Global patterns of daily CO2 emission reductions in the first year of COVID-19, Natural Geosciences (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00965-8

Daily monitoring reveals global CO2 emission patterns, Natural Geosciences (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-00987-2

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Quote: Drop in CO2 emissions during pandemic shutdown shows it is possible to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement (2022, July 1), retrieved on July 5, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022 -07-decrease-co2-emissions-pandemic- shutdown.html

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