Yes, the emissions have gone down. It will not solve climate change
To this end, the researchers modeled different emissions scenarios as humanity recovers from the pandemic. With a recovery still reliant on fossil fuels, emissions would be 10% higher in 2030. They calculate that a moderate green stimulus package, which would allocate an additional 0.8% of global GDP to low-carbon energy, would result in a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030, reaching the global net zero CO level2 by 2060. But an aggressive stimulus – which would invest 1.2% of global GDP in low-carbon technologies to boost the global economy and truly tackle climate change – would cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach global net zero by 2050, a decade earlier than the moderate stimulus would.
But that’s going to be a tall order, says Brian Snyder, an environmental scientist at Louisiana State University, who was not involved in the research. Humanity has two huge problems, he says: China and the United States. “In China, they’ve built a huge number of coal-fired power plants over the past 20 years. They can’t really shut them down and continue to grow their economy, ”says Snyder. And governments will be tempted to push their economies more aggressively than ever to make up for lost revenues during the pandemic.
The United States has a similar problem, except it’s with coal and natural gas. “We’ve built a huge number of natural gas facilities over the past 10 years,” Snyder says. “Natural gas is really cheap, so there is an economic incentive to keep operating.”
It will take a concerted effort on the part of governments to inject mountains of money into green energy. This is what the Obama administration did after the 2008 financial collapse: its stimulus package included $ 90 billion for the development of technologies such as biofuels, solar and geothermal energy. Since then, new technologies like carbon capture – which sucks up CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequestration underground – have been deployed in pilot projects and could use funds. (Carbon capture is economically tricky, because there really is no market for CO2, hence the reason to hide it underground. It’s like buying a car and never taking it out of your garage.)
For now, the United States is struggling to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, and many lawmakers are more worried about getting stimulus checks immediately to try to resuscitate the economy. Lawmakers in fact spoils for green projects March’s $ 2.2 trillion stimulus package, and they remain deadlocked in their efforts to agree on a second stimulus. In July, UN Secretary General António Guterres called the nations of the world invest their stimulus funds in green technologies, noting that they create three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry.
The tricky part is that green energy construction projects sometimes create more jobs in the short term than in the long term. “If you just want to build a wind farm or something like that, you get a lot of jobs right off the bat,” Snyder says. “It doesn’t necessarily create a lot of jobs in the long run. But if what we need right now are people with hammers building carbon capture facilities, maybe that’s a good thing.
In addition, a lot has changed since the 2008 economic stimulus package. Over the past decade, the cost of producing renewable energies like solar and wind power has fallen. At the same time, solar panels have become more efficient at recovering energy, making them all the more economically feasible. “Maybe that’s the asterisk in this article, 10 years ago I never thought solar and wind would be as cheap as them,” Snyder says. “So maybe in 10 years these prices will keep going down.”