On April 2nd, Reuters published an article on how carbon emissions could fall up to 5% in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, citing a comment made by Stanford University Earth Science professor and Global Carbon Project chair Rob Jackson. Though the exact figure was disputed, with other cited predictions ranging from 0.3% to 2.2%, the accepted consensus is that the global lockdowns imposed by the pandemic will result in a visible (in some places, this description is literal) decrease in carbon emissions.
The article adds, however that even at best the decrease will not be enough to make a significant impact on the impending crisis of global warming. According to Section 5 of a 2019 UN Report, carbon emissions would need to fall 7.6% annually to meet the goal outlined by the report of reducing the global temperature increase to only 1.5° C of warming.
“It’s as if we went back in time and emitted the same amount we were a few years ago — which was already too much. In the grand scheme of things, it really makes no difference,” commented Seaver Wang of the Oakland-based Breakthrough Institute to Reuters.
However, the current pandemic has been viewed as a call-to-action by some. “COVID is a real warning that when Mother Nature decides to act, we are pretty puny,” said Earth Day Northwest 2020 organizer Gene Duvernoy to the Seattle Times.
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed as illustrative of how future global catastrophes will play out in the modern world. Global aid precedents are being set, with countries like Cuba providing aid to Italy, Honduras, and other afflicted nations. At the same time, the pandemic has led some countries to impose anti-globalization measures and pursue increased isolationism.
With traders on Monday paying to be rid of oil, the world economy is feeling the effects of the crisis. The International Monetary Fund predicted last week that the pandemic could cost the economy up to $9 trillion, over three times the economy of India measured in GDP.
Though these costs are extreme and have prompted the largest stimulus relief package in American history, the climate crisis in contrast could cost more than $1 quadrillion according to Nature, well over 3,000 times the estimated toll of the COVID-19 crisis and nearly four times the economy of the entire world. This figure is based on their estimates of a possible $422.1 trillion in economic growth if the aforementioned 1.5° C goal is met in comparison with a potential economic decline of up to approximately $616.1 trillion if ecological measures are not taken.
“This is definitely a shot across the bow from Mother Nature, telling us it is time to wake up, humans, this is just a precursor of what will happen,” says Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians climate change program head Don Sampson. “This is a setback, but it’s also a reminder. Mother Nature is talking to us. We better start listening to her.”