COVID-19’s Side Effect on Global Climate Change

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As many individuals read this from the safety of their homes, significant time and energy is focused around the impact on human health, the economy, our families, and so many other areas that have been impacted by COVID-19. However, while the thought of entire cities, trains, airports, and public businesses being shut down indefinitely has evoked fear among many individuals, a byproduct of this crisis is the significant reduction, albeit temporary, in the world’s output of greenhouse gases. According to a recent Forbes article, greenhouse gas emissions in Europe will drop 24.4 percent because of the Coronavirus lockdown. The article similarly forecast a 25 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions for China. While it may not be top of mind as businesses are closing down its operations, the impact of such significant change in the economy has reduced the usage of various materials, including oil. 

The short-term benefit of such greenhouse gas reductions, however, will likely be short-lived, according to a recent New York Times article. In fact, 2020 was intended to be a crucial year for global climate change, with presidents and prime ministers around the world under pressure to develop better policies and procedures in greenhouse gas emissions when they were to gather at the United Nations. 

New energy methods were beginning to take hold in the global environment, such as liquefied natural gas and clean energy technology, before the coronavirus outbreak took place. Given the low demand on traditional sources of energy coupled with corresponding price reductions will likely create significant barriers of entry for new energy methods’ implementation. 

In sum, this short-lived side effect from this pandemic by way of a reduction in greenhouse gasses is anything but a silver-lining. “I won’t be celebrating if emissions go down a percent or two because of the coronavirus,” said Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Stanford University who chairs the Global Carbon Project. “We need sustained declines. Not an anomalous year below average.” 

As companies continue to develop strategies and implement action plans for the further handling of the COVID-19 crisis, the challenges we face with global climate change await us when we eventually overcome this virus and can refocus on production through more energy-efficient methods, irrespective of a temporary reduction in greenhouse gasses. 

Additional articles referenced for this content can be found on the Atlantic Council and LA Times websites.