Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

Uncategorized

The Coronavirus and Carbon Emissions – The New York Times

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

900 thousand metric tons per day

Coal use dips every winter as businesses close down for the New Year holiday.

Coal Consumption in China

Is Down Due to Coronavirus

This year, coal use didn’t rebound following the holiday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Daily coal use by six power companies before and after the Chinese New Year

–30 days

Days from Chinese New Year

900 thousand metric tons per day

Coal use dips every winter during the New Year holiday.

Coal Consumption in China Is Down Due to Coronavirus

This year, coal use didn’t rebound after the holiday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Daily coal use by six power companies before and after the Chinese New Year

–30 days

Days from Chinese New Year

Coal Use in China Is Down Due to Coronavirus

Daily coal consumption by six power companies before and after the Chinese New Year

900 thousand metric

tons per day

Coal use dips every winter during the New Year holiday.

This year, coal use didn’t rebound after the holiday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

–30 days

Days from Chinese New Year

Source: Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, based on data from WIND

By The New York Times

In the past month, the world has seen a remarkably large drop in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main driver of global warming. The reason isn’t something to celebrate, though.

The coronavirus outbreak in China, which has sickened at least 77,000 people, has shut down factories, refineries and flights across the country as officials order people to stay home. As a result, China’s carbon dioxide emissions over the past three weeks have been about 25 percent lower than during the same period last year, according to calculations by Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

China is such a huge industrial polluter that even a temporary dip like this is significant: The three-week decline is roughly equal to the amount of carbon dioxide that the state of New York puts out in a full year (about 150 million metric tons) Mr. Myllyvirta estimated.

The numbers offer a sobering reminder of how deeply the modern economy still depends on fossil fuels. Whenever industrial activity declines, whether because of a recession or a major disease outbreak, climate pollution tends to plummet, too.

You can see the drop in China’s coal consumption in the chart above. Every year, the nation’s coal use falls during the weeklong holiday around the Lunar New Year, which occurred on Jan. 25 this year. Coal-burning emissions then typically rise again once people return to work and factories spring back to life.

But this year, coal use has yet to rebound. In late January, the Chinese authorities extended the New Year’s holiday and restricted travel and public gatherings in an attempt to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

  • Answers to your most common questions:

    Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.

The effects have rippled through virtually all sectors of China’s economy.

Construction activity has slowed, which has meant reduced demand for steel and other materials. Oil refineries are producing less fuel than usual as cargo trucks sit idle and the number of flights has dropped by about 13,000 per day. Activity in key industrial sectors has declined by 15 percent to 40 percent over the last three weeks compared with the previous year. (Mr. Myllyvirta first published his analysis at Carbon Brief last week and on Tuesday updated it with another week of data.)

But economic disruptions on this scale, whether caused by disease or recession, are usually accompanied by severe human costs and rarely make it easier to fight climate change. In some cases, they can make it harder.

For one thing, it’s likely that China’s emissions will quickly rebound when the outbreak is finally contained. Li Shuo, a senior policy adviser for Greenpeace Asia, said that in the past, China’s factories have tended to ramp up production to make up for lost output or temporary shutdowns, a practice he calls “retaliatory pollution.”

Mr. Li warned that the outbreak could even hinder China’s continuing efforts to green its economy and try to tackle climate change. The Chinese government has set ambitious targets for economic growth this year and will now have to race to make up for lost time. That may mean new policies to stimulate polluting industries like steel and cement, or a relaxation of efforts to shift away from coal.

“Controlling the outbreak and maintaining economic growth are now going to be China’s top priority,” Mr. Li said. “And we’ve seen in the past, whenever economic growth needs to be prioritized, the environmental agenda takes a back seat.”


Image

Credit…Photo Illustration by The New York Times; Shutterstock

A controversial idea to fight climate change by using iron to manipulate ocean ecosystems probably won’t work, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study, which was based on computer modeling and published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at adding iron to the oceans as a sort of fertilizer for phytoplankton, the tiny plants and algae that can absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The researchers’ finding: The world’s oceans appear to have all the iron they need, thank you.

“Iron fertilization cannot have a significant overall effect on the amount of carbon in the ocean because the total amount of iron that microbes need is already just right,” said Jonathan Lauderdale, a research scientist in the university’s department of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and the study’s lead author.

David Emerson, a senior research scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science in East Boothbay, Maine, said the study raised important questions about iron fertilization and its effects.

“The authors of this PNAS paper point out an important potential shortcoming of long-term iron fertilization based on computer model simulations, and these cannot be taken lightly,” he said. “But there are experiments showing that iron fertilization contributed to carbon reductions in the ice ages and those cannot be ignored.”

Dr. Emerson said the concept of iron fertilization required more research that would take “at least one to two decades of work and expenditures in the low billions of dollars.”

Phytoplankton, which uses carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, needs iron to grow. So adding more iron to the oceans, the theory goes, would lead to more phytoplankton and more carbon being pulled from the atmosphere.

The theory, and the field of geoengineering in general, is contentious because many scientists and environmentalists fear that large-scale manipulation of ecosystems could come with large-scale unintended consequences.

In the summer of 2012, George Russ, an American businessman, sprinkled 100 tons of iron dust into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia in an ecological venture that outraged scientists and government officials in both Canada and the United States.

LEAVE A RESPONSE