The global lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 reconfirmed one more fact that man is the enemy of its environment. The global rat race has always succeeded in creating activities for mankind to the detriment of the environment and its wellbeing. Through such activities, quantum of energy and waste are generated everyday which lead to pollution and environmental degradation. This often leads to frequent and continuous call to address the issues of climate change.
In March this year, the environment received reprieve and relief from emasculating activities of man when the world gradually locked down during the pandemic. Fossil fuel consumption nosedived reducing to almost 40% as manufacturing industries, mining activities, transportation especially the aviation sector came to a near halt. Coal, oil and gas demands staggered and were the hardest hit by the lockdown pandemic.
Fatih Birol, IEA executive director in Paris said the coronavirus pandemic is “a historic shock to the entire energy world’. The low-carbon energy sources are extending their lead to reach 40% of global electricity generation this year overtaking coal for the first time, according to PV-Magazine.
The NASA satellite images evidenced a significant pollution reduction in most of the world. In China reduction was measured by 25% drop in four weeks of lockdown. Marshall Burke from Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University stated that just two weeks of reduced pollution saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of 5 and 73,000 adults over the age of 70 in China. At the same time it was reported that renewable energy recorded a spike in most of the world becoming the energy source with most resilient to the lockdown.
According to PV-Magazine, Cornwall Insights reported that Europe experienced falls in power demand and the carbon intensity of electricity generation during the lockdown. Between March 23 and April 20, year-on-year fall average demand ranged from 11.5% in Germany to 17.2% in the UK and carbon intensity reductions varied from 15.9% in Italy to 35.9% in Germany.
Also Tom Andrews of Cornwall Insights stated that “many system operators are now able to manage grids at 70% or more renewable energy and with a much lower level of demand than would, even a few months ago, have been expected”. The situation is more likely to be sustainable with high renewable penetration across Europe.
Many experts are seeing the link to carbon emission with the global GDP. Steve Davis, Associate Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California stated that around 500 tons of CO2 per $1million of world’s GDP was generated in recent years. Last year, 40 billion tons of CO2 were emitted per $88billion of the world’s GDP. This is a direct indication that global GDP is tie to carbon emission for now.
The pandemic truly expose the interface of the economic and environmental system giving impetus to that fact that energy transition goes beyond energy mix. Energy sustainability is what should be given attention and should now be the focus.
Beyond the global reduction in the consumption of fossil fuel, activities in the Amazon also slow down during the pandemic. In recent years, the Amazon forest has experienced deforestation due to wanton destruction of the ecosystem for mining, agricultural and logging activities usually supported by government agents. Carbon emission also has a direct link to climate change as we know. While it is envisage that corvid-19 may live with us for awhile, the effects of other elements such as droughts, floods etc which are link to climate change will require continuous attention as they remain with us.
While current reduction is temporary and may not be sustainable, there are lessons to learn from it which require actions. The world must continue to deploy renewable energy and develop more alternative sources to curb carbon emission. It must continue to encourage digital habits in corporate work life, education, shopping etc this will limit transportation thereby reducing global carbon emission. The society must work hard to ensure a reasonable time frame is reached to reduce and contain global carbon emission.