Rob Jackson, who chairs the Global Carbon Project, which produces widely-watched annual emissions estimates, said carbon output could fall by more than 5% year-on-year – the first dip since a 1.4% reduction after the 2008 financial crisis.
“I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 5% or more drop in carbon dioxide emissions this year, something not seen since the end of World War Two,” Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University in California said.
“Neither the fall of the Soviet Union nor the various oil or savings and loan crises of the past 50 years are likely to have affected emissions the way this crisis is,” he said.
The prediction – among a range of new forecasts being produced by climate researchers – represents a tiny sliver of good news in the midst of crisis: Climate scientists had warned world governments that global emissions must start dropping by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Experts warn that without structural change, the emissions declines caused by coronavirus could be short-lived and have little impact on the concentrations of carbon dioxide that have accumulated in the atmosphere over decades.
“This drop is not due to structural changes so as soon as confinement ends, I expect the emissions will go back close to where they were,” said Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in eastern England.