Covid-19 is already slashing the number of flights and will result in an economic downturn. This life-threatening disease is shutting down economic function, and rightly, we need to protect people.
However, it also brings some other hidden benefits. We’re in the middle of a climate crisis and we need to at least half global carbon emissions by 2030 to avert runaway climate change. Global carbon emissions have been rising steadily, this trend needs to change to the magnitude of a 5% reduction a year.
What would 2020 look like in terms of carbon emission if we had 6 months slowed economic activity and we greatly reduced the number of flights? Let’s assume the number of flights taken this year halves and we experience an economic downturn the same as 2008.
Here are the results. We cut carbon emissions by 580 million tonnes of carbon. To put that into perspective the UK reported carbon emissions of 451 million tonnes in 2018. This drop-in carbon emissions is equivalent to 58 million gas-guzzling westerners, the planting of around 1 billion trees.
We could probably use a few other assumptions as well and come up with some other figures. Let us know what you think the economic impacts of COVID-19 may be and I’ll run some figures on how it’ll affect climate change.
Source data: World in Data, Carbon Brief