The study authors warn that even with some lockdown measures staying in place to the end of 2021, without more structural interventions global temperatures will only be roughly 0.01°C lower than what they now expect to see by 2030.
Using open source data, the team calculated how levels of 10 different greenhouse gases and air pollutants changed in more than 120 countries between February and June this year.
"The study also highlights the opportunities in lowering traffic pollution by encouraging low emissions vehicles, public transport, and cycle lanes", Forster added. "This could mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to avoiding risky climate change", Forster said in a statement.
The global lockdown will have a "negligible" impact on rising temperatures but a green recovery could avert risky climate change, a study has said.
Study co-author Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia said: "The fall in emissions we experienced during COVID-19 is temporary and therefore it will do nothing to slow down climate change, but the Government responses could be a turning point if they focus on a green recovery, helping to avoid severe impacts from climate change".
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The unprecedented fall in greenhouse gas emissions from lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic will do "nothing" to slow climate change without a lasting switch from fossil fuels, an global team of researchers said yesterday.
'Through ingenious use of mobility data from Google and Apple (and presumably an terrible lot of home-based data crunching by the research team) this study gives the clearest picture yet on how Covid has impacted global emissions'.
The strong green stimulus scenario used in the study involved spending 1.2% more of gross domestic product per year than now on low-carbon energy and efficiency measures over the next decade, and 0.4% less on fossil fuels, causing greenhouse gas emissions to fall by just over 50% by 2030.
The researchers also modelled options for post-lockdown recovery, showing that the current situation provides a unique opportunity to implement a structural economic change that could help us move towards a more resilient, net-zero emissions future.
The team's findings, published today in Nature Climate Change, detail how despite carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other emissions falling by between 10-30% globally through the massive behavioural shifts seen during lockdown, there will be only a tiny impact on the climate, mainly because the decrease in emissions is temporary. "The better air quality will immediately have important health effects - and it will immediately start cooling the climate".
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The 2015 Paris climate deal saw nations commit to limit temperature rises to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels through sweeping emissions cuts. But given that it took one of the largest economic slowdowns in history for this drop to happen, Prof Forster said it was unlikely to be repeated as nations look to recover.
Beyond that threshold, scientists warn of increased droughts and extreme weather, spread of diseases, reduced crop yields, rising seas and harm to wildlife.
"The important thing to recognise is that we've been given a massive opportunity to boost the economy by investing in green industries - and this can make a huge difference to our future climate".
"Our paper shows that the actual effect of lockdown on the climate is small", study co-author Harriet Forster said in a news release.
'This will make the Paris agreement targets almost impossible and, as shown by the IEA report earlier this year, will create a slower, dirtier, and unsustainable recovery'.
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