carbon emissions canada

Carbon emissions set to drop this year by biggest amount since World War II

There's little good to say about a global pandemic that has so far taken the lives of more than 1,800 Canadians and nearly 180,000 people worldwide — but there are some slightly silver linings to be found among the storm clouds. 

One slight benefactor of COVID-19 appears to be Planet Earth, though experts say the pandemic's positive impact on our environment will be temporary.

"This crisis has had an impact on the emissions of greenhouse gases," said World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Petteri Taalas from Geneva on Wednesday, per Reuters.

"We estimate that there is going to be a six per cent drop in carbon emissions this year because of the lack of emissions from transportation and industrial energy production."

That said, the organization stated in an Earth Day media release that this expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — the largest yearly drop observed since World War II, if their predictions are right — will likely be short lived and "not a substitute for sustained climate action."

The pandemic may in fact distract scientists from tackling more acute environmental challenges while they deal with a public health crisis, according to the WMO, worsening the climate crisis in the long run.

"We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves," said Taalas in the Earth Day highlights Climate Action release published Wednesday.

"We need to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19. We need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity not just for the coming weeks and months, but for many generations ahead."

There is reason to believe that scientists should be focusing on mitigating the effects of climate change more now than ever as much of the world's economy falls flat.

Emission growth has also traditionally spiked following severe economic downturns in the past, according to the WMO, and the planet cannot afford to keep polluting after marking the five hottest years ever on record.

"Previous economic crises have often been followed by 'recovery' associated with much higher emission growth than before the crisis," explains the intergovernmental organization, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations focused on weather and atmospheric sciences.

"It is therefore important that post-COVID-19 stimulus packages help the economic grow back greener."

Lead photo by

Kris Krüg

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