In June, the IMF downgraded its outlook on the economy, anticipating a contraction of 4.9% for 2020. This was concerning to some but unsurprising, as the pandemic had put a halt on the world economies. However, many also found a green silver lining in it, hoping it would help our rapidly growing climate change problem. It made sense, less planes, cars, shopping or commuting meant less fuel burned, less carbon spewed into the atmosphere, but the effect was minimal.
Meghan O’Sullivan, a professor at Harvard University, explained that in order for this to make a real difference, it would have to happen over and over again to the point that it would bring economic destruction and misery all over the world. And while this might just be one opinion, the science is behind it. The International Energy Agency projects that global carbon emissions will drop by 8% for 2020. This might seem like good news but it only sheds a light on the uphill battle we face ahead if we want to fight climate change. The UN Environment Program released an emissions gap report last November that determined the world would need to decrease emissions by 7.6% every year until 2030 if it wished to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius. If it took a pandemic that halted the world’s economy for months to reach that number, how will we make it every year?
It might seem like 1.5 is an arbitrary number but the dangers of surpassing it are real. According to an IPCC report published in 2018, if the world’s average temperature were to rise above that hard line to the previous limit of 2 degrees Celsius, we would see irreversible consequences, such as: the disappearance of 99% of corals worldwide, sea level rises of 10 cm more than anticipated, mass extinctions, severe droughts, etc. Sounds like an apocalyptic movie but it is an incredibly feasible reality if nothing is done. The truth is, if we are betting on this dooms day scenario not coming true, we better pray for a strong economy.
O'Sullivan, M. (2020, September 16). Pandemic Is Hurting Not Helping Green Energy Replace Oil, Coal. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-09-16/pandemic-is-hurting-not-helping-green-energy-replace-oil-coal
Plumer, B. (2020, April 30). Emissions Declines Will Set Records This Year. But It's Not Good News. Retrieved September 17, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/climate/global-emissions-decline.html