Photo credit: VanderWolf-Images (creator)/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The novel coronavirus outbreak has spread across large regions, infecting more than 308,000 and killing more than 13,000 people. The world health organization (WHO) has declared the disease a pandemic due to the rate at which the virus is travelling, causing fear all around the world. Millions of flights have been cancelled, schools are shut down, even attraction sites such as Disneyland and The Eiffel Tower are being closed due to the spread. Multiple health organizations have recommended social distancing measures to mitigate the impact of the disease, which has resulted in great isolation amongst public areas.
Although the virus caused severe disruptions and affected people of every age, it does have an unexpectedly positive effect on carbon emission levels. China – the world’s largest carbon emitter – has an estimated decrease of 25% in carbon emissions in the past month. Granted the trend in carbon emissions continue, analysts predict that this may lead to the first fall in carbon emissions since the 2008-9 financial crisis. Additionally, the crisis in the airline industry has also been a major contributor in the fall of global emissions. The cancellation of international conferences and global events may also lead to more carbon savings.
Despite the low levels of carbon emissions, clinical associate professor Gernot Wager expressed his sympathetic views to those compensating for the cut in emissions, putting forward the idea that climate change should not be wagered for the price of death and insufferable living conditions. “Emissions in China are down because the economy has stopped and people are dying,” Wager told MIT Technology Review. “Poor people are not able to get medicine and food. This is not an analogy for how we want to decrease emissions from climate change.” Climate experts have also noted the offset in low carbon emissions produced by public areas, emphasising on the increase in home-used energies due to isolation and social distancing. “[People spending more time watching television or using appliances at home] could end up having a higher energy use,” reported Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University. As a result, this increases a household’s carbon footprint.
Klopp noted that the behavioural changes due to the pandemic incurred significant changes to the economy. She believes that this is the norm for dealing with similar situations, such as a natural disaster. Klopp also pointed out that this level of disaster preparedness has shed a light on the fact that the significance of public health awareness and climate change can often clash with one another.
Regardless of the change in carbon emission due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, once the pandemic is over, whether people willingly choose to apply carbon-friendly changes instead of unintentionally offsetting global carbon emissions is another question.
To learn more about our changing climate, visit https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/climate-topics
©2020 Weather Forecaster Caitlyn Rusli