Carbon dioxide emissions need to fall by the equivalent of a lockdown every two years to save the planet, climate scientists have claimed.

The claim derives from a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change titled ‘Fossil CO2 emissions in the post-COVID-19 era’.

According to the abstract:

Five years after the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement, growth in global CO2emissions has begun to falter. The pervasive disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have radically altered the trajectory of global CO2 emissions. Contradictory effects of the post-COVID-19 investments in fossil fuel-based infrastructure and the recent strengthening of climate targets must be addressed with new policy choices to sustain a decline in global emissions in the post-COVID-19 era.

In short, the nations of the world will need to do much, much more if they are to meet the CO2emissions reduction targets set out by the Paris Climate Agreement. This is predicated on the idea that by keeping global industrial CO2emissions below a certain level, mankind will somehow tweak the global temperature control knob to such effect that planetary warming will be kept within a supposedly safe range of “1.5 °C to well below 2 °C.”

And in order to achieve this, the report’s lead author Corinne Le Quéré says, there must be the equivalent of a global lockdown every two years.

She told the Guardian:

We need a cut in emissions of about the size of the fall [from the lockdowns] every two years, but by completely different methods.

The lockdown has caused massive disruption to the global economy. According to Bloomberg:

Emissions from energy fell by about 2 billion metric tons, or 5.8 per cent in 2020, from the prior year. Such a plunge “is without precedent in human history — broadly speaking, this is the equivalent of removing all of the European Union’s emissions from the global total,” the authors wrote.

This was achieved, inter alia, by a huge drop in the air travel which up until 2020 most people had accepted as one of the many perks of Western civilisation. According to the same Bloomberg article, 35 per cent of that drop in energy emissions came from the grounding of most of the world’s aircraft.

Perhaps this is why Le Quéré is vague about describing what “completely different methods” might achieve the same effect as lockdown. Whatever they are, they will need to be pretty dramatic — and almost certainly unpopular with people who quite enjoy the trappings of 21st-century life and would rather not be compelled to go back to the Dark Ages.

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