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Climate dismay

Photo: AFPPremium
Photo: AFP

If the covid ‘experiment’ has a message for the world, it’s this: a sharp and swift carbon crackdown can wait no longer

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One wonder of last year’s lockdown was how smoke-spewing factories and fuel-guzzling vehicles came to an abrupt halt, giving us a tragic but useful natural experiment in capping carbon emissions. At least the pandemic did the planet’s climate a good turn, we told ourselves. Turns out, it didn’t. Not in the sense of any notable gains against the big threat we face. According to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Bulletin released by the World Meteorological Organization, though there was a brief decline, GHG levels in 2020 surged above the past decade’s average to set a new record. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, for example, reached 413.2 parts per million, which is about 149% of the pre-industrial level.

If sustained periods of low power generation and minimal vehicular exhaust across the world achieved so little, it’s clear that our climate challenge is even tougher than we thought. Meanwhile, studies indicate that we need stiffer commitments than made under the 2015 Paris Agreement to stand a chance of warding off disaster. If the covid ‘experiment’ has a message for the world, it’s this: a sharp and swift carbon crackdown can wait no longer.

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