lower carbon dioxide emissions should not be a game changer

The fight against coronavirus pandemic could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 7% by 2020, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Climate Change. But this dramatic case should not affect global warming in the longer term.

This is one of the positive effects of containment measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic: according to one study, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one of the most important greenhouse gases, could fall to 7% by 2020, but this dramatic decline will have little influence on global warming in the longer term, the researchers warn.

In early April, at the height of restrictions imposed to stop the new corona virus, global CO pollution decreased by 17%2 was recorded, according to the first type assessment, published Tuesday in the journal NatureClimateChange.

>> Read: “Inclusion in Europe would have prevented more than 11,000 deaths from pollution”

A temporary situation

China, the United States, the European Union and India contributed two thirds of this reduction in emissions during the first four months of 2020, ie more than one billion tonnes of CO2. In 2019, emissions from the industrial and energy sectors reached a record 37 billion tonnes.

“The containment of the population has led to profound changes in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions2“said Corinne LeQuéré, lead author of the study and professor at the British University of East Anglia.

“But these cases are likely to be temporary, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport or energy systems,” added the president of the French High Council.

If the world economy returned to pre-pandemic conditions in mid-June – a scenario that is more than likely – CO emissions will2 would fall by 4% in 2020, according to calculations by LeQuéré and her research group. If the restrictions continued during the year, the decline in 2020 would amount to approximately 7%.

“Hardly a comma in the curve”

“It would hardly be a coming in of the continuous curve for CO building2 into the atmosphere, “said RichardBetts, director of climate studies at the British National Meteorological Office.

“We need to stop adding more, not just adding less quickly. It’s like reducing the flow of the faucet on a bathtub. The water is always rising, but just slower,” continues this expert.

As the climate crisis during the pandemic continues, although Covid-19 appears to have shifted its urgent background.

In order to achieve the ideal goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to +1.5 ° C compared to the pre-industrial era, CO emissions must be reduced2 by 7.6% per year, every year from this year to 2030. Currently, they are constantly increasing.

“Major structural changes needed”

The world has already won about 1 ° C, which has resulted in more climate disasters. And each additional degree will exponentially increase the magnitude of the disturbances.

At the current rate, the temperature can rise by 4 to 5 ° C at the end of the century. And even if states respect their current commitments, the increase in mercury can exceed 3 ° C.

“The pandemic has shown that major structural changes are needed in the energy and transport sectors,” said Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at the University of London.

Some experts hope that this will be an opportunity to accelerate the transition. “Fossil fuels seem to hit harder than renewable energy sources,” said Glen Peters, research director at the International Center for Climate Research in Oslo, while oil, for example, hit a low during the crisis.

Substantial decline in land transport

“If this continues we can come out of Covid with lower emissions, renewable energies have been able to take up more space, in front of some of the most polluting fossils like coal.”

But hundreds of billions around the world are not only sending positive signals about building a future “green” economy.

“There is a high risk that a short-term vision can lead to governments losing sight of a broader perspective and putting money into highly polluting sectors that have no place in a zero-carbon society,” says JoeriRogelj, of the Imperial College of London.

The study, published on Tuesday, at least offers a vision of the sectors on reduced emissions. April 7, the day of CO pollution2 decreased most globally, emissions from land transport accounted for more than 40% of the decline, industry 25%, power generation 19% and air transport 10%.

Although this type of calculation generally takes much longer, the new methods used by researchers can allow for faster vision and thus speed up decision making.

“If you can see the effects of a policy within a few months instead of waiting for several years, you can refine the policy faster,” Glen Peters said.

With AFP