Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set for Record Decline Due to Coronavirus Lockdowns
The Paris-based agency predicted a drop of eight percent, almost six times the last record, set in 2009 and triggered by the global financial crisis. It is also twice as steep as all emissions declines since World War II combined. However, the agency cautioned that this decline on its own is not a solution to the climate crisis.
"Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer," IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said in a press release. "And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve."
Global CO2 emissions are set to fall nearly 8% this year to their lowest level since 2010, the largest drop in hist… https://t.co/LvjMgj6nvU— Fatih Birol (@Fatih Birol)1588224730.0
Birol did note, however, that a rebound in emissions is not inevitable, as he added his voice to the growing global call for a green recovery process.
"[G]overnments can learn from [the post-2008] experience by putting clean energy technologies – renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture – at the heart of their plans for economic recovery," he said. "Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future."
The IEA's Global Energy Review is based on more than 100 days of data so far this year. It predicts that global energy demand will fall by six percent in 2020, the equivalent of losing the entire energy demand of India and seven times the 2008 decline.
The #Covid19 pandemic is the biggest shock to the global energy system in over 70 years. Global energy demand is s… https://t.co/qoULFrehAt— Fatih Birol (@Fatih Birol)1588224727.0
All major fossil fuels have taken a beating so far and are expected to decline further.
- Coal demand fell by almost eight percent in the first quarter of 2020 and could fall eight percent for the whole year.
- Oil declined by almost five percent in the first quarter and could fall by nine percent for the year.
- Natural gas declined by two percent so far and is expected to fall by five percent for the year, The Guardian reported. While gas has been less impacted than oil and coal, that would still be its steepest decline since it became a widely-used energy source in the mid-20th century.
Only renewable energy sources saw growth, and are expected to continue to grow throughout the year. This is because wind turbines and solar panels cost little to operate, so when electricity demand declines, they get priority on the grid, The New York Times explained.
This means low carbon energy sources are expected to continue moving in the direction that began in 2019, when they overtook coal as the world's leading source of electricity for the first time in 50 years. By the end of 2020, they should account for 40 percent of the world's electricity.
"This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today's unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use," Birol said. "It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before."
The IEA estimates are based on certain assumptions, namely that lockdown measures are loosened in the coming months and the economy begins to recover.
"Some countries may delay the lifting of the lockdown, or a second wave of coronavirus could render our current expectations on the optimistic side," Birol told Reuters.
The question for climate advocates is whether the decline in emissions can be sustained. This is a tall order. The United Nations has estimated that emissions need to decline by around eight percent per year through 2030 in order to keep temperatures "well below" two degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels, The New York Times reported.
"I hope the striking improvements in air quality we've seen remind us what things could be like if we shifted to green power and electric vehicles," Stanford University earth scientist Rob Jackson told The New York Times.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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