Environmentalists Cheer Emissions Drop Due to #COVID-19 Lockdowns

Environmentalists remind us why they prefer humans to suffer and to be sacrificed to the needs of nature. But, according to the author, we’ll still have the freedom to travel … maybe.

Climate explained: will the COVID-19 lockdown slow the effects of climate change?

June 30, 2020, 3.11pm EDT, Simon Kingham
Professor, University of Canterbury, The Conversation

The COVID-19 lockdown has affected the environment in a number of ways.

The first is a reduction in air travel and associated emissions. Globally, air travel accounts for around 12% of the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and this was predicted to rise. An ongoing reduction in air travel would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The lockdown has also meant less travel by road, which has resulted in measurably lower vehicle emissions and cleaner air in New Zealand.

Worldwide, daily emissions of carbon dioxide had dropped by 17% by early April (compared with 2019 levels) and just under half of the reduction came from changes in land transport. The same study estimated the pandemic could reduce global emissions by between 4% (if the world returns to pre-pandemic conditions mid-year) and 7% (if restrictions remain in place until the end of 2020).

But even a 7% drop would mean emissions for 2020 will roughly be the same as in 2011. The long-term impact of the pandemic on climate change depends on the actions governments take as economies recover – they will influence the path of global carbon dioxide emissions for decades.

Choosing how you travel

Land transport is more within our control in New Zealand. How, and how much, we choose to travel will determine our greenhouse gas emissions. While many people are returning to their cars, there are some lockdown changes that could lead to longer-term emissions reductions.

Firstly, people now realise it is possible to work from home and may want to continue doing so in the future.

Secondly, there is evidence some people walked and cycled more than they had done before during lockdown. Retailers are reporting increased demand for bicycles.

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