The Silver Lining-Global Carbon Emission Levels Drop

Carbon Neutral City
Image used for representation only

He felt well rested and at peace. He had woken up to the sound of birds, not vehicles and people.

The air smelt fresh. There was even a hint of fragrance from the few flowers that had bloomed in the balcony. That was a refreshing change from the stale air from the previous days traffic.

The day was not rushed like every day. He remembered he had nowhere to go to today. He was to work from home. He could eat his breakfast and have his morning tea without thinking about beating the morning rush. It felt wonderful that he would not be stuck in traffic for an hour. No navigating the road madness.  

Today he could have warm, healthy, lunch at home. On time. No grabbing some junk food at 4 PM because there had been no time for lunch.

No being stuck in office till 8 PM. For once it would be dinner on time, with everyone at home. The two hours saved in commute may make time for reading that pile of books that had being growing over the months. Perhaps with a cup of tea and with music. Perhaps enjoying the fresh air in the balcony. Or perhaps some nice conversation about poetry, stories that touched the heart. Or perhaps even watching the sunset rather philosophically.

Why couldn’t this be every day?

Till this week the idea of work from home had been ridiculed. They had laughed at the idea. Questioned his sanity for even suggesting it. This week they had said everyone must work from home. It was a full circle. 

There were a lot of good things about this pandemic, he thought. It helped people realize that what they claimed was impossible, was possible. 

The lockdown was meant to prevent the spread of the deadly virus by reducing people contact. He was surprised how quickly the world could respond with lockdowns, quarantines, and self-isolation.

Just weeks before leaders had been skeptical about the ability to slowdown to address the climate crisis. Now, they would know not only that it is possible but also how effective it is to address the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had estimated that on January 1st, 2018, we had a planetary capacity of only 420 billion tons of carbon dioxide beyond which we would fail to contain the global average rise in temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

As we emit an estimated 42 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally, every year we would cross this in about eight years. We must flatten the curve of the spread of the CO-2 virus, just as we must flatten the curve of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Yet, we had done nothing to address the CO-2 emergency.

In just a few weeks, the world has shown the COVID-19 lock down has reduced the daily carbon emissions from 115 million tons by an estimated 50 percent.

If work from home continued, the flattening of the curve for the CO-2 virus was possible. What else would we need to do, he wondered?  

He remembered the talk where the speaker had suggested we consume less goods and services. He had been skeptical. However, these were extraordinary times. He now felt this was possible.

After all much our possessions are the need of working in offices where we compete with colleagues about our possessions. Where we compete in the vehicles and modes we use to travel. Our need to keep up with the Jones. 

He remembered the speaker had also emphasized on consuming local goods and services. He had been skeptical about this too. However, he realized that during this lock down almost everything he consumed had been local. We can continue with this, he told himself.

Suddenly at least 30 percent of the flats in his building had fallen empty. People had gone back to their homes. He realized that most of those who lived off daily or weekly wages had also returned to their villages.

Clearly the city’s populations had shrunk significantly. If this continued, there would be possibility of more open spaces, more trees, protecting the rivers and streams and a city that doesn’t require transportation to get around.

Perhaps planners would finally stop talking urban and start talking livable.

Perhaps the green spaces to absorb the atmospheric carbon could come back. Perhaps our addiction to converting forest and agricultural land to urban spaces can be cured.

He had been saying that there is no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, flatten the CO-2 curve and protect the environment. Nature gave us COVID-19 and said, here, practice.

Perhaps, he thought, our short-termism can be replaced with a focus on the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born today. 

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#All views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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