Wired discusses how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting climate change. Sure, emissions have fallen. But a closer look at how the global crisis is influencing the environment reveals some surprising dynamics.
IT IS AN invisible, deadly menace. It’s causing almost unfathomable economic destruction. We knew it was coming, but were caught woefully unprepared. It tricked nations into blaming one another—the US being the primary antagonist—instead of working together to stop it.
It is the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and it is climate change. The two are intimately linked: As you’d expect, emissions have fallen as people drive less and industries grind to a halt. But dig deeper into how the pandemic is influencing the climate, and surprising and often counterintuitive dynamics begin to emerge. This is your guide to those complexities.
Back in February, an analysis by the climate group Carbon Brief found that as the pandemic seized hold of China’s economy and heavy industries shuttered, emissions from the country plummeted by an incredible 25 percent. Another analysis by Carbon Brief in early April estimated that globally this year, emissions could fall by 5.5 percent from 2019 levels. That figure may seem low, given that fewer cars are on roads and industries have stalled, but with context, it’s stunning: Until now, emissions have been reliably increasing by a few percent year after year. That’s happening even though the world’s nations pledged to individually reduce their emissions as part of the Paris Agreement, with the ultimate goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial global temperatures.
[There are references to other studies in the article.]