Carbon dioxide emissions have plunged as covid-19 slows commercial and industrial activity. But that drop is probably just temporary, the United Nations warned this week.
The UN’s weather agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), called the recent 5.5 to 5.7% decrease in carbon dioxide due to the pandemic “short-term good news.”
“Once the global economy begins to recover from the new coronavirus, WMO expects emissions to return to normal,” according to the UN. The organization’s secretary general, Petteri Taalas, cautioned that there might even be an uptick in emissions post-pandemic because some industries were halted.
A United Nations report published recently found that carbon dioxide levels were 18% higher from 2015 to 2019 than the previous five years.
“Since the first Earth Day in 1970, carbon dioxide levels have gone up 26%, and the world’s average temperature has increased by 33.5 Fahrenheit,” the agency noted. “The planet is also nearly 34F warmer than the pre-industrial era and this trend is expected to continue.”
Failure to mitigate climate change will lead to “persistent health problems, especially hunger and inability to feed the growing population of the world, and there would be also more massive impact on economics,” Taalas said.
An emissions rebound has already been observed in China, where depressed manufacturing caused a significant drop.
Many corporate sustainability leaders say they haven’t lost sight of their long-term emissions reductions goals during the pandemic. More than 860 companies are taking science-based climate action and at least 360 have approved science-based targets, according to the Science Based Targets initiative.
This month the initiative and its partners introduced a streamlined target-setting route for small and medium-sized companies to help make the process easier for businesses that might otherwise lack the capacity.
“There are costs involved in measuring, monitoring, and managing carbon emissions,” the initiative acknowledged. “But the financial opportunities of reducing emissions are clear.”