Remember a while ago I posed the question: who is responsible for climate change and who should have the responsibility for taking action?
Well - what if I say that this crisis may give us some help to figure it out?
As a ‘sustainability blogger’ i am always preaching about how ‘every little helps’ and how we should all do our best to limit emissions by taking little actions in our daily lives, such as consuming less, travelling less, walking instead of driving etc etc..
Guess what? This crisis which saw most of the world in lockdown made us just do that, in mass
According to the IEA global average road transport activity fell to 50% of the 2019 level by the end of March 2020.
In Europe, the number of flights was down around 90%, in the US around half the number of planes took off compared to last year.
And globally, the demand for jet fuel is down 65% year-on-year to April.
And what were the effects?
We have seen it - or thought we had
The news of the clearer waters in Venice went mainstream, and some great images from space showed it. Sure, there were no boats moving sediment around.
Images from space also showed less emissions. Sure, many industries were closed.. But not all!
And in fact there is still a lot of oil being consumed! The International Energy Agency still expects the world to consume 76.1 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year. Who’s consuming all of that crude? Gasoline and jet fuel demand is down dramatically but hasn’t disappeared. As a matter of fact, today (Friday may 8th, when some lockdown are lifted but travelling has not resumed full speed) I opened ‘flightaware’ and this is what i have seen. Still a lot of plane traffic. Some are cargos (things have to move around, consumption goes on) and some are small jets but some are also passenger planes (and then some may explain to me what those balloons are..?)
Diesel demand is down, but its losses have been limited thanks to the strength of freight and shipping. IEA expects diesel demand in 2020 to be down only 7% compared with the previous year.
Then there are petrochemicals, which have been unevenly impacted by the crisis. Plastics used in auto manufacturing are down, but plastics used for food packaging are up. Especially now that with the virus it may seem safer to buy things in packages (and I don’t think it is and you can read more here). The numbers illustrate just how intertwined oil is with the global economy. Cars and planes can be parked en masse, and yet widespread oil consumption continues.
While the lockdown might feel rather uniform across the world, there have been huge variations in emissions reductions from different cities.
I am going to make an example done in this great BBC article,
"If we take Paris and New York as examples, the contrast, as shown on our chart, is huge. Paris saw a CO2 drop of 72% (+/-15%) in the month of March compared to normal, New York in the same period, saw a CO2 fall of around 10%."
You may wonder why
As the article says
"In the Paris area, there are no large fossil fuel power plants, or industrial sites," said Philippe Ciais, from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace in Paris. "Another difference is whether buildings are heated with fuels or with electricity. In France, around 70% of electricity comes from nuclear."
Much of New York's CO2 comes from emissions related to the heating of buildings. But significant emissions come from fossil fuel plants based within the city limits. Cars make up a much smaller proportion of overall energy use.
“I guess something to think about is that we shut down the entire city and got a reduction of 10% in the CO2 emissions," said Prof Róisín Commane from Columbia University in New York. "We are still emitting more than 80% of our previous CO2 emissions. That is a massive number. So personal behaviour really isn't going to fix the carbon emission problem. We need a systematic change in how energy is generated and transmitted."
So, the answer is in the last sentence. Personal behaviour is not enough. BUT this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep on doing them and educating / inspiring others to - just means that we should also fight for better choices to be made from the high seats. Need to vote green and demand green politics to restart in the right way, right now, while we can change the cards on the table. Before we restart full bloom
And just because I like it, i leave you today with this quote
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." Rahm Emanuel
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