No one knows for sure how much global greenhouse gas emissions have fallen with the coronavirus pandemic, but it is within reason to think that it could hit 40%.
According to the United Nations, a 40% reduction is what humanity has to achieve by 2050. And there are credible climatologists who have been forcefully arguing that the UN goal was far too conservative, that we needed to get to 40% much faster.
Well, we have done it in a few days.
It turns out we could do it fast.
Of course it won’t last. When economies ramp back up so will emissions. But while we are here, take a look around: the empty streets, motionless cars, shuttered factories and grounded airplanes. This is what a reduction in greenhouse somewhere on the order or 40% looks like (with present-day technology). This is what we have to make sustainable.
To be fully honest, a greenhouse gas reduction of 40% is at the outside of the probable range of where we are right now. Twenty-five or 30% is more likely. So what we see in the world right now, this very day, might not be drastic enough to reach even the UN emissions goals.
The silver lining is that every species of life on earth except for humans is celebrating. Not just the polar bears, but everything banana slugs to monarch butterflies. Certainly the coral reefs are celebrating. The global pandemic of greenhouse gas emissions that has them all fighting for the lives is letting up at least momentarily. Humans are the only ones not invited to the party.
The pandemic is almost as if the earth was giving humanity a giant collective spanking: “I don’t care who is responsible! All of you, go to your room! Now! And don’t come out until you can behave properly!”
Tragically, as is so often the case when punishment is meted out collectively, those who have done nothing bear the brunt of the punishment for the actions of a few. In this case, that would be those of us whose lifestyles have depended on massive carbon emissions.