Covid-19 lockdowns could drop carbon emissions to their lowest level in since World War II. But the change may be temporaryUpdated 11:24 AM EDT May 19, 2020

Covid-19 lockdowns could drop carbon emissions to their lowest level in since World War II. But the change may be temporary

Updated 11:24 AM EDT May 19, 2020

As predicted, carbon dioxide emissions have declined during the Covid-19 pandemic. But if past crises are any indication, the environmental gains may be short-lived.

An international study of global carbon emissions found that daily emissions declined 17% between January and early April, compared to average levels in 2019, and could decline anywhere between 4.4% to 8% by the year’s end. That figure would mark the largest annual decrease in carbon emissions since World War II, researchers said.

The findings appeared today in the journal Nature Climate Change.

It’s not clear how long or severe the pandemic will be, which makes it difficult to predict how emissions will be affected long-term. And because the changes driving reduced emissions haven’t fundamentally changed the economy or the energy much of the world relies on, the declines are likely to be temporary.

Plus, 2020 is still on track to be one of the top five hottest years on record.

“I can’t celebrate a drop in emissions driven by unemployment and forced behavior,” said Rob Jackson, study co-author and professor in Stanford University’s Earth Science Systems department. “We’ve reduced emissions for the wrong reasons.”

Researchers created a lockdown index

The study centered on 69 countries, all 50 US states and 30 Chinese provinces, which account for 85% of the world population and 97% of all global carbon dioxide emissions.

Real-time carbon emissions data doesn’t exist, so researchers made their own algorithm. They created a confinement index based on the severity of pandemic policies — 0 represents no policy, and 3 represents a maximum lockdown with stay-at-home orders and a shuttered economy.

They used that lens when they examined daily data from six sectors of the economy that contribute to carbon emissions, including transportation, aviation, industry and commerce. With the confinement index indicating the severity of countries’ lockdowns and these data on drops in carbon-emitting activities, they could predict changes in daily emissions.

The carbon reductions were primarily driven by fewer people driving — surface transport activity levels dropped 50% by the end of April. The most significant decline in activity occurred in aviation — a 75% decrease — but it accounts for a smaller slice of global emissions, Jackson said.

By the end of April, carbon emissions declined by 1,048 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the researchers predicted — that’s roughly 2,312,649 pounds. The decline is largest in China, where the pandemic began, where emissions dropped 533,500-plus pounds. In the US, carbon emissions declined by 456,350-plus pounds. China and the US are the two largest carbon emitters globally.

What comes next

Whether these changes last — and whether they’ll make a difference in slowing climate change — depends on what the world does when the pandemic ends.

By the end of the year, emissions will have declined somewhere between 4.4% and 8%, the researchers predict. It’s the most significant decline in over a decade, but it’s the result of forced changes, not the restructuring of global economies and energy.

According to United Nations Environment projections, to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every single year between now and 2030.

And in order to stay under 2 degrees Celsius of warming, which scientists agree is important to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change, we need to continue to reduce emissions by 2.6%, per the 2015 Paris climate accords.

“Unfortunately, past crises suggest that emissions will rise again,” Jackson said.

He compared the pandemic to the last global crisis, the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Global emissions decreased 1.4% in 2009. Then, in 2010, emissions shot back up 5% — as if nothing had changed.

One crisis that did alter things fundamentally — the oil shocks in the 1970s, when shortages dramatically drove up gas prices. The energy shock prompted manufacturers to make smaller cars and move toward solar and wind power.

Still, he said, we can’t rely on a pandemic to solve our climate woes.

“Crises do not solve the climate problem,” he said. “They buy us a year or two’s worth of time at most.”

Transportation, he said, is one of the most significant emitters of carbon dioxide and also one of the most challenging sectors to change. Most people still drive gas-powered cars.

But, Jackson said, we’re presented with the opportunity to “jumpstart the electrification of mobility and transport.” Cities are already closing off roads so pedestrians and bicyclists can use them.

The virus may also make people leery of public transport, too, he said.

It’s not clear how society will change in the wake of the virus, but to prevent devastating climate change, “we need to electrify transport quickly, coupled with clean energy,” he said.

“The blue skies that people have seen as we’ve parked our cars have shown people what we could have every day by driving clean vehicles or walking and biking,” he said.

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Hobbled by Coronavirus, China’s First-Quarter GDP Shrinks for First Time on Record

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/04/17/business/17reuters-china-economy-gdp.html

Hobbled by Coronavirus, China’s First-Quarter GDP Shrinks for First Time on Record

By 

BEIJING — China’s economy contracted for the first time on record in the first quarter as the coronavirus shut down factories and shopping malls and put millions out of work.

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 6.8% in January-March year-on-year, official data showed on Friday, a slightly larger decline than the 6.5% forecast by analysts and reversing a 6% expansion in the fourth quarter of 2019.

It was the first contraction in the world’s second-largest economy since at least 1992, when official quarterly GDP records were first published.

Providing a silver lining was a much smaller-than-expected fall in factory production in March, suggesting tax and credit relief for virus-hit firms was helping restart parts of the economy shut down since February.

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However, analysts say Beijing faces an uphill battle to revive growth and stop massive job losses as the global spread of the virus devastates demand from major trading partners and as local consumption slumps.

“First-quarter GDP data is still largely within expectations, reflecting the toll from the economic standstill when the whole society was on lockdown,” said Lu Zhengwei, Shanghai-based chief economist at Industrial Bank.

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“Over the next phase, the lack of overall demand is of concern. Domestic demand has not fully recovered as consumption related to social gatherings is still banned while external demand is likely to be hammered as pandemic spreads.”

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, GDP fell 9.8% in the first three months of the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said, just off expectations for a 9.9% contraction, and compared with 1.5% growth in the previous quarter.

Statistics bureau spokesman Mao Shengyong told a press briefing after the data that China’s economic performance in the second-quarter is expected to be much better than in the first

However, weaker domestic consumption, which has been the biggest growth driver, remains a concern, as incomes slow and the rest of the world falls into recession.

Per capita disposable income, after adjusting for inflation, fell 3.9% from a year earlier in the first quarter, the data showed.

“We are hesitant to think that this is just a one quarter event, Q2 will also likely be lower than expectation,” said Ben Luk, senior multi asset strategist at State Street Global Markets in Hong Kong.

“To offset weakness in external demand, we will see some policy support later this month or early May.”

Industrial output fell by a less-than-expected 1.1% in March from a year earlier. Highlighting the challenges in consumption, however, was a 15.8% fall in retail sales, which was larger than expected. Fixed asset investment dropped 16.1% in January-March from a year earlier.

Investors and policymakers worldwide are closely watching to see how long it takes China to recover from the virus shock, as the United States and a number of other afflicted countries begin to consider cautious reopenings of their economies.

“As long as there are strict social distancing measures, the recovery of activity will be very slow, and this will be reflected in consumption,” analysts at ING said in a not

PANDEMIC IMPACT

Economists’ forecasts for first-quarter GDP had ranged widely given the many uncertainties around the pandemic’s economic and social impact in China.

The virus has infected more than 2 million globally and killed more than 140,000. China, where the virus first emerged, has reported more than 3,000 deaths although new infections have dropped significantly from their peak.

Of major concern for policymakers is social stability among its 1.4 billion citizens, millions of whom migrate from rural areas to cities to find work each year.

The urban jobless rate fell to 5.9% in March from 6.2% in February, suggesting the pain in the labour market is yet to be reflected in official numbers.

However, analysts warn of nearly 30 million job losses this year due to stuttering work resumptions and plunging global demand, outpacing the more than 20 million layoffs seen during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

RESCUE PACKAGE

China’s stability-obsessed leaders have pledged more steps to combat the slump but are mindful of the lessons learned in 2008-09 when massive stimulus saddled the economy with mountains of debt.

Last month, the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo said it was considering measures such as more local government special bonds and special treasury bonds

“We expect Beijing to deliver a large stimulus package soon to combat the worst recession in decades, with most of the financing to be provided by the PBOC (People’s Bank of China),” Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, said in a note.

The PBOC has already loosened monetary policy to help free up credit to the economy, but its easing so far has been less aggressive than during the financial crisis.

China has cut a number of key policy rates in recent months and is widely expected to lower its benchmark lending rate again on Monday at its monthly fixing. Regulators have also encouraged banks to offer cheap loans to the hardest-hit sectors and tolerate late loan repayments.

The government will also lean on more fiscal stimulus to spur infrastructure investment and consumption, which could push the 2020 budget deficit to a record high.

For 2020, China’s economic growth is expected to tumble to 2.5%, its slowest annual pace in nearly half a century, a Reuters poll showed this week.

(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Kevin Yao and Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Sam Holmes)

22 million have lost their jobs over the past month—real unemployment rate likely nearing 18%

22 million have lost their jobs over the past month—real unemployment rate likely nearing 18%

Another 5.2 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending April 11. That brings the total unemployment claims over the past four weeks to 22 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The total weekly claims fell close to 1.4 million from last week’s 6.6 million initial unemployment claims. Economists had been expecting the report to show the ranks of jobless Americans increasing by 5.5 million.

But these claims are still staggering: The one-week record—before the current streak of multi-million claims—was 695,000 in October 1982.