The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a fall in fossil fuel consumption, but the decrease in emissions was brief. According to a recent analysis, global carbon emissions are already returning to near-record levels reached before the pandemic.
“What is surprising is that [the rebound in emissions] happened so quickly, in spite of the fact that much of the global economy has not yet recovered,” said Corinne LeQuere, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, during a climate talks interview in Glasgow. “This is really a reality check.”
The report adds to the pressure on world leaders gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for the world’s largest climate summit to debate the drastic reductions necessary to combat climate change.
When industries burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energy, they emit heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Human activity has warmed the world by approximately 1 degree Celsius (nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit), intensifying disasters such as floods, droughts, and wildfires.
“It’s not the pandemic that will make us turn the corner,” stated LeQuere. “It’s the decisions that are being taken this week and next week. That’s what’s going to make us turn the corner. The pandemic is not changing the nature of our economy.”
According to Damian Carrington of the Guardian, the experts behind the analysis predicted that as travel and crude oil use increase next year, it will result in a new record for global emissions. World leaders are attempting to avert a 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) increase in global average temperature, which scientists believe is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. However, the analysis projects that this milestone would be exceeded in 11 years with the current pollution rate.
“To achieve net-zero by 2050, we must cut emissions every year by an amount comparable to that seen during COVID,” research co-author Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter stated in a statement. “Personally, I think [the 1.5C goal] is still alive, but the longer we wait, the harder it will get…we need immediate action and reductions.”