The sudden sharp fall in greenhouse gas emissions recorded in the early part of this year may seem like an environmental blessing, a breathing space as the world fights climate breakdown. Skies clear of aircrafts and streets free of cars have encouraged the return of nature and brought visions of a cleaner world.
Carbon dioxide emissions had fallen by 17 percent on average by early April, according to a definitive study published in Nature Climate Change on May 19, as a result of the lockdown measures put in place around the world to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, the unprecedented decline is “nothing to celebrate,” according to leading experts. It will be temporary and will make little difference to the world’s ability to meet the goals of the Paris agreement and stave off catastrophic levels of global heating. The causes of the steep fall, the economic convulsions and the possibility of lasting economic damage also mean urgent work must be done to repair the economy.
“This decline in emissions, the biggest in history, is the result of economic trauma,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, whose own analysis backs up the Nature paper in showing that this is the biggest drop in carbon in history. “It is nothing to celebrate. It is not the result of policy. This decline will be easily erased if the right policy measures are not put in place.”
Dave Reay, a professor of carbon management at Edinburgh University, called the paper “sobering stuff” as it revealed that the massive changes made to cope with the pandemic would have only a minor effect on emissions, and the climate. “All those billions of lockdown sacrifices and privations have made just a small and likely transient dent in global greenhouse gas emissions. COVID-19 is no help on climate change — it is a devastating scourge.”
“None of this is good news for anyone,” added Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer in climate change at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. “It is the symptom of a massive economic disruption caused by the pandemic and the measures to contain it. For the climate, this month-long wake in otherwise record-high emissions is entirely insignificant.”
What is to come might be worse still, he warned, if governments around the world seek to kickstart the global economy out of its pandemic recession by pouring public money into projects that prop up existing industries and increase our dependence on fossil fuels. For instance, sectors including aviation, car manufacturing and fossil fuel production have been hard hit by the lockdowns, and many companies are hoping for bailouts using public money.
“Massive economic stimulus measures are now being announced and there is a high risk that short-sightedness will lead governments to lose track of the bigger picture by putting their money towards highly polluting sectors that have no place in a zero-pollution and zero-carbon society,” said Rogelj.
Campaigners said the world must make the right choices on how to rebuild after the pandemic. They have called, along with leading economists, for a green recovery that would concentrate any stimulus cash on projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution, as well as generating jobs and increasing prosperity.
“When we move forward from this terrible situation, we have to make sure we hold on to the gains we’ve made in better air quality, lower carbon emissions and simple things like hearing birdsong,” said Jenny Bates, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Councils should start by permanently changing how road space is used, allocating more to encourage walking and cycling, and making public transport work for everyone. Now is the time to scrap plans to expand airports and introduce a levy on the most frequent flyers.”
Governments facing such choices have a clear blueprint on how to ensure the recovery is green and sustainable, said Paul Morozzo, a senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “We know how to do it. We have to rebuild our cities around walking, cycling and public transport. We’ve got to create hundreds of thousands of jobs upscaling renewable energy and insulating people’s homes. Let’s learn from this tragedy, build back better and not make the mistake of ignoring the next crisis [of climate breakdown] heading our way.”
The Western Section of the Taipei Metro’s Circular Line (the Yellow Line) in New Taipei City has been in operation since Jan. 31. On Sept. 6, someone riding in a Metro train car saw the quite moving scene of an elderly workman sitting on a paint pail that he had with him because he was afraid of dirtying the seats. Some netizens were moved to tears by the story. The person posted a photo on the “Baofei Commune” Facebook group. He said that when he was on the Circular Line in New Taipei City, he had come across an elderly workman
Let’s go for a spin in my new set of wheels (2/5) 坐我的新車去兜風吧（二） A: How about we organize a road trip to test out my new set of wheels? B: Alright. Any thoughts on where to go? A: I’m thinking of driving along the east coast and staying in Taitung for a long weekend. What do you think? B: That’s a great idea — but does your vintage car have air conditioning? A: I’m afraid not, but at least the weather is starting to cool down now. How about this Saturday? B: Sure. Let’s do it! A: 我們來規劃一趟公路旅行，試試我的新車，你覺得如何？ B: 好啊。你有想到去哪裡嗎？ A: 我打算沿著東海岸開，然後週末連假待在台東。你覺得呢？ B: 那真是太棒了──不過，你的經典車有空調嗎？ A: 恐怕沒有哦，反正天氣開始變涼了。星期六出發怎麼樣？ B: 當然。就這麼做吧！ （Edward Jones, Taipei Times／台北時報章厚明譯） English 英文: Chinese 中文:
Veteran singer Tarcy Su staged a show at the Taipei Music Center on Saturday last week, becoming the first to hold a large solo concert at the venue since it opened in Taipei’s Nangang District on Aug. 27. After releasing her first album for 13 years in March, Su finally held the first paid concert in her music career spanning three decades since 1990. To celebrate the grand opening of the new multipurpose center, singer-songwriter Kay Huang, the center’s chairwoman, also launched an inaugural concert featuring various artists on Sept. 5. The lineup included Golden Melody Award-winning singer LaLa Hsu, singer
Let’s go for a spin in my new set of wheels (3/5) 坐我的新車去兜風吧（三） A: Whoa, we’re only staying for three nights. What are you doing bringing all that luggage? B: Well, I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like, so I packed for all eventualities. I can put one bag in the trunk and the other on the back seat. A: No can do: the trunk in a Mini is minuscule. The toolkit and the spare tire take up most of the space. You’ll just have to sling one bag on the back seat and keep the other between your feet in the front. B: OK, no problem. A: