A report published in Nature Climate Change claims carbon emissions fell drastically during COVID-19 related lockdowns. In order to meet goals set forth in The Paris Agreement, they say, a pandemic scaled lockdown would be needed once every two years in order to maintain “safe” temperature levels.
The lead author of the report, which was reviewed and summarized by The Guardian, argues that “we have failed to understand in the past that we can’t have tackling climate change as a side issue. It can’t be about one law or policy, it has to be put at the heart of all policy.”
Corinne Le Quéré, lead author of the study, said the world stood at a crucial point as governments poured money into the global economy to cope with the impacts of the pandemic. “We need a cut in emissions of about the size of the fall [from the lockdowns] every two years, but by completely different methods,” she said.
The report found that “carbon emissions fell by about 2.6 billion metric tons in 2020 or roughly a 7% drop from the previous year, a historic decrease.” In addition, however, “further drops in carbon output — 1 to 2 billion metric tons per year — are needed for global emissions to meet the safe worldwide temperature range defined by the Paris Agreement to dodge the effects of climate change.”
The Paris Agreement concluded that earth’s temperatures must remain within 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius of “pre-industrial levels” in order to avoid “climate catastrophes” in the future.
The report goes on to explain that more than just lockdowns are needed to meet Paris Agreement goals. A co-author of the study argued that “structural changes” are necessary in order to help industrialized nations “move away from fossil fuels” and towards green energy.
Glen Peters concluded:
“Emissions were lower in 2020 as fossil fuel infrastructure was used less, not because infrastructure was closed down,” he said. “When fossil fuel infrastructure is put into use again, there is a risk of a big rebound in emissions in 2021, as was seen in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2009.”
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said President Biden should consider declaring a climate emergency.
Speaking to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Schumer said “It might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency. He can do many, many things under the emergency powers… that he could do without legislation. Trump used this emergency for a stupid wall, which wasn’t an emergency. But if there ever was an emergency, climate is one.”