To make a long story short, we don’t have much time left.
Experts estimate that if something is not done before the end of 2020 to control greenhouse gases and avoid a post-pandemic spike, a climate catastrophe is unavoidable
“This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told The Guardian.
Greenhouse gas production dropped by about 17% worldwide in April, Science Alert reports, leading to “the biggest one-year drop since WWII, and possibly ever,” said Robert Jackson, co-author of a study on global carbon emissions and chair of the Global Carbon Project, predicted for 2020 as a whole.
During lockdown in some countries, carbon emissions fell an average of 26 percent. But, this is more likely a temporary reprove for the environment.
“Locking people at home isn’t a sustainable way to cut greenhouse gas pollution,” Jackson told Business Insider.
Many companies will look to create jobs in the next few years. The IEA has developed a blueprint for a green recovery, which recommends focusing on “green jobs – such as retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, putting up solar panels and constructing wind farms,” The Guardian reports.
“Building efficiency ticks all the recovery boxes – shovel-ready, employment intensive, a high economic multiplier, and is absolutely key for zero carbon [as it is] a hard-to-treat sector, and has big social benefits, in the form of lower fuel bills,” said Sam Fankhauser, executive director of the Grantham Research Institute on climate change at the London School of Economics.
Transport and Environment maintains that more than $33 billion has been funneled into airlines, and more than $509 billion is being spent on high-carbon industries in Europe alone, with only $12.3 billion going to low-carbon industries. This round of spending is considered reactionary, and essential to keeping some businesses afloat.
About $9 trillion will be spent in the EU in hopes of propping up economies left in ruins after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shutdown. If that stimulus is not put toward sustainable efforts to lessen carbon emissions, it will be impossible to meet climate targets set by the United Nations.
“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
Following the IEA’s plan, it is possible to meet the UN’s carbon emissions targets. It may not be easy, but the consequences of inaction are far worse.
“A post-Covid world must be a fair one. It will only be equitable if the government prioritizes health, wellbeing and opportunity for all parts of society,” said Jamie Peters, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth. “As if the case was not compelling enough in a dangerously heating planet, it is even more urgent post-Covid.”
The effects of climate change are already being seen in sweltering heat, uncontrollable fires, devastating hurricanes and retreating polar ice. If the global demand for energy consumption is not brought under control, it may devour and destroy all life as we know it.
“Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live,” said the late American conservationist Rachel Carson.
The question is, are we doing enough to keep that home in tact?
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.