Pollutant emissions have fallen during the lockdown period, mainly as a result of the slowdown (and in some cases total suspension) of a large proportion of human activity. The greatest reduction in emissions was recorded at 17%, but it has turned out to be insufficient in combatting the global climate crisis.
Studies suggest in fact that this trend has had a minimal impact on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. That means that climate change already underway will not be slowed down at all and, according to estimates, the next five years will be among the hottest ever recorded.
Increasing concentration of greenhouse gases
The most worrying aspect is the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has presented some statistics on the subject, which provide very little reassurance and show how the level of CO2 continues to rise year on year.
In the first half of 2020 alone, carbon dioxide emissions were in excess of 410 parts per million (ppm), with samples taken at stations like Mauna Loa (Hawaii) and Cape Grim (Tasmania), where levels of 414.38 ppm and 410.04 ppm were recorded, compared to 411.74 ppm and 407.83 ppm in 2019.
It is clear from this data that the reduction in emissions resulting from lockdown will not be sufficient to have any significant impact on the global climate crisis. This is mainly due to the fact that the figure of 17% is only the highest point reached during the months of imposed closure and the real average lies between 4% and 7% approximately (similar to 2006 levels, but still too low).
It should also be noted that in addition to CO2 emissions deriving from the combustion of fossil fuels, methane emissions must also be taken into account, as they are also rising steadily compared to previous years.
Climate change: what to expect in the coming years
The failure to meet all the objectives agreed at the Paris summit (designed to limit temperature increase to within 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels) will have serious consequences. Climatic changes witnessed in recent years are the undeniable proof.
The average global temperature between 2016 and 2020 was the highest ever recorded and, if necessary measures are not taken, it is estimated that between now and 2024 it will only increase further. Forecasts suggest that we are getting perilously close to the ‘point of no return’, the moment when any action taken will be in vain.
In the last few years, the arctic marine ice has suffered a drastic reduction in its surface area, with a consequent rise in sea level. These variations have led to immensely powerful and highly destructive natural phenomena, resulting in natural disasters all over the world.
By continuing on our present course, with emissions which are out of control and few effective measures being taken, we can expect periods of drought interspersed with flooding and increasingly destructive weather phenomena. This apocalyptic scenario will conclude with the world’s ecosystem being definitively compromised.
Man must understand that his actions are having truly devastating consequences on the planet’s delicate balance and, if we do not act quickly, we will destroy the only home we possess. Lockdown has shown how, with a great, shared effort, it might be possible to change the course of events, but we are going to need perseverance, forward thinking and common sense.
The post-pandemic recovery should then focus on sustainability, with clean development solutions which will have an effect in the long term. This requires the collaboration of all nations, with detailed agreements and sustainable ecological solutions. Only in this way will be able to build a real opportunity for a better future.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith