This week: we dispel the myth that the pandemic is stopping climate change. We also discuss what needs to be done if we really wanted to stop climate change. And the good news? We’ve already starting to do it.
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1. Carbon emissions are falling, fossil fuel demand is dropping, but we shouldn’t celebrate yet.
Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a whopping 2.5bn tonnes this year. According to data commissioned by The Guardian, “the unprecedented restrictions on travel, work, and industry” are the causes. This would lead to the industry’s biggest drop in carbon emissions on record. “In a single year,” The Guardian reports, “eclipsing the carbon slumps triggered by the largest recessions of the last 50 years combined.” But don’t celebrate just yet.
Overall greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere are still increasing. “A month or two of shelter in place will drop carbon dioxide emissions a few percent here or there,” says Rob Jackson, environmental scientist at Stanford University. “But it won’t change the year substantially unless we stay like this for some time.” Dr. Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, echoes this too, adding that if governments don’t take the right measures to support clean energy in stimulus packages, “then this decline could easily be wiped out in the rebound of the economy.”
“This decline is happening because of the economic meltdown in which thousands of people are losing their livelihoods, not as a result of the right government decisions in terms of climate policies,” he said. “The reason we want to see emissions decline is because we want a more livable planet and happier, healthier people.” (And as it stands, some governments don’t seem to be making the right decisions.)
2. Study finds that countries cooperating at a global scale on climate would help every country in the world benefit economically.
The new study simulated a number of possible scenarios to determine the ideal way to combat the worst effects of climate change, and what would happen if we didn’t do anything. It concludes that countries need to establish national goals that go beyond what’s currently set. Countries are also going to have to invest significantly and commit to working together. How much would we stand to gain? Anywhere between $127 and $616 trillion over the next century. That’s the best possible outcome scenario. But the researchers know how governments work—they’d be more concerned if the costs of inaction were presented to them, rather than the possible benefits gained from action. (They called it a “self-preservation” strategy.) So they also studied what would happen if countries didn’t take action. The world could lose anywhere between $150 and $792 trillion by 2100. They’re hoping these numbers will facilitate global climate governance.
The good news? It seems that some countries are paying attention…
3. Amsterdam to embrace “doughnut” model to mend post-coronavirus economy!
The model is derived from British economist Kate Raworth’s 2017 bestselling book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. It’s also a model that has been read and praised by politicians, academics and activists everywhere. And now, it’s about to be formally embraced by the municipality of Amsterdam as the starting point for public policy decisions. Amsterdam will be the first city in the world to make such a commitment. “I think it can help us overcome the effects of the crisis,” said Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Marieke van Doorninck. “It is to help us not fall back on easy mechanisms.” Raworth added that hers is a framework that’s “ready to go”, to help build economies that care about climate, health, jobs, housing and communities.
So what’s the central premise of the “doughnut”? That the goal of economic activity should be about meeting the core needs of all but within the means of the planet. “The world is experiencing a series of shocks and surprise impacts which are enabling us to shift away from the idea of growth to ‘thriving'”, said Raworth.
“Thriving means our wellbeing lies in balance. We know it so well in the level of our body. This is the moment we are going to connect bodily health to planetary health.”
4. Barclays sets net zero carbon target for 2050 after investor pressure.
According to a recent report by the Rainforest Action Network, Barclays has been the top Europe financier of fossil fuels in the last four years and is the seventh-largest globally. But it has now bowed to investor pressure. The bank has pledged to align all of its financing activities with the Paris agreement, and to publish “transparent targets” to track its progress. The proposal will be put to an investor vote on 7 May, and is part of a response to a separate shareholder resolution. That resolution urges the bank to phase out all lending and services to energy and fossil fuel companies that fail to align with Paris climate goals. Campaign group ShareAction, which spearheaded the shareholder vote, is calling on investors to back both resolutions. Why?
Because then the bank will actually pull its services from the largest carbon emitters, rather than just offsetting them with alternative investments or services. (Aka: greenwashing.)
5. Coronavirus is scrambling global supply chains, leaving mountains of food waste.
Yikes. Billions of dollars worth of food are about to go to waste. According to a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition report, we’re looking at up to $1.32bn from March to May in farm losses alone. Farmers across the US are facing a massive surplus of highly perishable items. They’re dumping fresh milk and plowing vegetables back into the dirt. And at the same time? Food banks are struggling to keep up with record demand. Grocery stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked. But the problem is not so simple…
Shelf-stable staple goods are selling out, but food banks need those dry and frozen goods. What they don’t need is huge amounts of stranded, highly perishable foods. Which is exactly what farmers are throwing at them. Those perishable foods were previously destined for restaurants, schools, stadiums, theme parks, cruise ships, etc. Again, not food banks.
“The reality is what makes the food chain work normally is there are just tens of thousands of arrangements that have been developed over time in order to match supply and demand. Then you just suddenly break all that and you’re trying to, with voluntary relationships, piece something together in a very short timeframe. There’s going to be a lot of failure.”
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons