By Dr. Humphrey Agevi
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak was detected by doctors in Wuhan, China around December, 2019. Although the first case may have began in Hubei Province on November 17 last year.
The disease has expanded to touch nearly all corners of the globe with countries recording rise in cases of infections and deaths. World Health Organisation (WHO) has to that effect declared that the virus is a global health emergency of international concern; the sixth in the world history and rated COVID-19 a global risk of spread and impact as “very high”, the most serious designation that the organisation gives in its ranking.
The disease has spread from Wuhan and has spread to around 203 countires and territories. As at now, world figures stand at about 859,829 infections and 42,341 deaths with USA, Italy and Spain being the most affected countires. In Kenya the infections have reached 126 being the second most affected in Africa after Rwanda with 1 death case.
This disease has caused widespread sicknesses and fatalities and sent global economy towards the edge of recession. Countries have been forced to put in measures aimed at curbing the disease. This among others include total/partial lockdown of cities, isolation of nations, suspensions of international travels which have reduced about 70 per cent of international flights, banning of travels closing learning institutions, putting in measures to reduce public road transport, shutting down of industries/factories or reducing their operations.
Kenya through a presidential directive for instance has put in dusk to dawn curfew, closed all learning institutions, advised workers to work from home except those offering esssential services among others allll these aimed at enforcing social distancing to curbe further spread. This in turn has affected normal daily lives including carbon footprints.
“Globally, China is the leading emitter of carbondioxide at 30 per cent followed by USA at 15 per cent and Europe at 9 per cent. The biggest 20 companies in the world like Chevron, BP, Shell among others contributes 35 per cent of all energy related carbondioxide emissions. This is equivalent to 480 billion tonnes of carbondioxide”.
The shutdown in industries globally including in USA, China, Italy, Japan among others has led to drop in consumptions as a result of reduction in operations. For instance coal consumptions in power plants has been reduced to around 36 per cent globally. These industries have resulted to decline in the emissions of carbondioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O); greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contributes to increased effects of climate change.
Globally, China is the leading emitter of carbondioxide at 30 per cent followed by USA at 15 per cent and Europe at 9 per cent. The biggest 20 companies in the world like Chevron, BP, Shell among others contributes 35 per cent of all energy related carbondioxide emissions. This is equivalent to 480 billion tonnes of carbondioxide.
The slow in halt or physical operations has impacted on production. For instance Chevron senting home 300 of its staff implies reduced production hence reduced emissions. The reduction in use of fossil fuels and reduction in operations has resulted to carbondioxide cuts by 25 per cent based on Centre for Research on Energy and clean Air (CREA). Air pollution has greatly reduced, the skies are extremely clear which would have been brought about by aeroplanes and industries.
Globally, the aviation industry contributes 2.4 per cent of the total carbondioxide emissions. In US they contribute about 12 per cent of total emissions which is equivalent to 3 per cent of the total carbondioxide emissions.
“The UN has postponed 12 climate change talks which would have contributed to development of policy and agreements regarding the effects of climate change. Key among this meetings is the UN 2020 Biodiversity conference that would have drafted agreements and implement concrete climate change actions”.
Domestic flights in China, USA and EU contributes 55 per cent of total emissions. COVID-19 has drastically reduced all this which has in turn resulted to a greater decrease in the total grenhouse gase emissions into the atmopshere.
More carbon savings have been made by flights that would have been taken by international delegates being cancelled as a result of posponement of key international conferences.
The UN has postponed 12 climate change talks which would have contributed to development of policy and agreements regarding the effects of climate change. Key among this meetings is the UN 2020 Biodiversity conference that would have drafted agreements and implement concrete climate change actions.
Governments and central banks globally have been forced to pool resources to launch sustainable stimulus packages to help save economies and fight COVID-19. For instance US approved 2.5billion dollars as well as the Kenyan President directed central bank to release Shs. 7.38 billion reserve fund to fight the virus. These afforts if also put in climate change fight then would greatly help fight climate change and protect the earth’s biodiversity.
These reductions in carbondioxide would however not be long lasting. The se is due to the efforts being put in place to fight the virus. Once things come back to normal, defeinately countries will lift a number of sanctions they have imposed.
This will mean industries and factories will double production efforts to cover f or the losses made and periods they had reduced operations. This will double the greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere and ravage more on the earth flora and fauna.
There is need then for countries to come up with a policy that will see these companies commit more to carbon credit schemes for the emissions they will have added in the atmosphere. These will greatly offset the gases from the atmosphere.
Dr. Agevi is a Climate Change specialist in the Department of Biological Sciences at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST)