“Individually we are no match for nature. Together we are.“
Stewart Simonsen, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization; in conversation with Fareed Zakaria, GPS, 24 May 2020
“Congress will have to think with knowledge that we will have another crisis.”
Gary Cohn, Former Director, National Economic Council, Former President & Chief Operating Officer, Goldman Sachs, in conversation with Fareed Zakaria, GPS, 24 May 2020
Given the health, governance, and legal risks posed by the coronavirus and the covid-19 response, a primary issue affecting us all, including galleries, museums, and cultural organizations around the world, has been how to limit its spread. As a prophylactic vaccine has not yet been developed, decisions were made to limit possible exposure and contagion by distancing people from one another. In many countries all organizations and enterprises except those providing what have been considered “essential” services were closed, museums included.
Museums are public spaces that welcome people through their doors into shared spaces to look at art together. They have had to grapple with the questions of whether or not and how to engage their audiences while closed. They grapple now with the question of how best to re-open while continuing to mitigate the risk of contagion and spread.
The learning curve has been steep and rapid. Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel, and museum leaders from Asia, Europe, and the United States addressed the learning curve and responses of the museum sector during a webinar discussion that took place on 21 May, “How will the pandemic change institutions?“
Dr. Zoé Whitley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery, London, Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, New York City, Phlip Tinari, director and CEO of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, and Dr. András Szántó, author and cultural strategy advisor, New York City, shared their thoughts and perspectives on the missions, priorities, and activities of their organizations, how they were managing during the pandemic and concomitant shut-down, risks, risk management, and ways to make it possible to be back in physical spaces looking at art with other people.
“What roles should institutions play in the post-covid cultural landscape, assuming you can even guess what the landscape is going to be?”
Acknowledging that “we have a responsibility to re-think how we remain relevant to our audiences,” Dr. Whitley asked, “how do you start charting a new path under these incredibly strange circumstances?”
“I think that’s precisely the question,” she continues. “What might rank as the world’s worst hypothetical interview question: how would you lead an organization remotely in the midst of a global pandemic? And you would think it was so absurd as to be not really be able to entertain it. And yet here we are.”
Pathogens such as the coronavirus that is causing the covid-19 response occur abundantly in nature. As we, through our many behaviors, draw closer to wild animals, for instance, and draw them closer to us, and unless we work consistently and with intention to acknowledge, manage, and mitigate risk, we may expect ever more such pandemics.
Philip Tinari reflected on the disappearance of everyday routine during the closure, the mood of solemnity of everyday existence, the poignancy of being back in physical space looking at art with people, and the freedom to enter into a public space and look at art.
He observed that while “it’s poignant and it’s just wonderful to be back in physical space looking at art with people, … that can only happen because of larger dynamics in the society.”
“The freedom to enter into a public space and look at art,” the freedom to enter the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, and Beijing’s 798 Art District in which it is located, is afforded by measures taken to control the contagion and spread.
“To even enter into 798, one needs to have one’s temperature taken and one needs to show a kind of virtual pass which is generated by a government app that, you know, tracks your data and proves that you have not been in any high-risk areas for the last 14 days or 21 days, and even, in some cases, synchs to facial-recognition thermometers that are around town. So, there’s a complete panopticon, and we’re the indirect beneficiaries of it.
“And at our door, there’s another temperature check as there is at the entrance of any restaurant or store. And masking here is completely mandatory and universal. And so then it just becomes a question of how to be responsible and keep things disinfected and use our guards to keep people distanced.
“I guess all to say that we’re all kind of working inside the contexts where we find ourselves. And this one, for the draconian nature of certain measures, they paradoxically allow for the freedom to enter into a public space and look at art.”
As risks abound, continue, and even, arguably, increase, it is crucial to plan and conduct business smartly, in a forward-looking manner, clearly articulating desired outcomes, on the one had, and negative externalities, that are increasingly no longer external, on the other.
UCCA has postponed shows that were on the calendar for this year, “many of which involved intense overseas collaborations and were not going to happen as scheduled.” Yet, learning as early as early March that the museum re-opening would take place on 21 May, the first date also of the re-scheduled Beijing Gallery Week-end, Mr. Tinari and the museum curators realized “that there was no way we could get to May 21 and not have something to show everyone.”
“And so I sat in a room with my curators for about a week. And we came up with an exhibition that we titled “Meditations in an Emergency” after the Frank O’Hara anthology which kind of looks at the post-covid world from five different angles. Everything from the disappearance of everyday routine to the relationship between humans and animals to the proliferation of a sort of de-centered polyphonic or contradictory narrative around news and information.
“It’s a 26-artist group show that’s actually, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but it’s really beautifully installed. And it’s poignant and it’s just wonderful to be back in physical space looking at art with people.”
Thinking forward, Mr. Tinari observes “a certain solemnity to just everyday existence now. People are ready to come. And in a way that’s a very not the worst frame of mind with which to enter into an exhibition.”
What he’s been calling “the new intentionality,” engaging in activities “with a very specific purpose and for a limited duration,” applies, he says, to programming as well. “It’s not that we won’t continue to do big international shows but we’ll do them for specific reasons with kind of very measurable goals in more measured ways.”
The amount of CO2 being released by human activity each day fell by as much as 17% during the height of the coronavirus crisis in early April, a new study shows.
This means daily emissions temporarily fell to levels last seen in 2006, the study says. In the first four months of the year, it estimates that global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production were cut by 1,048m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2), or 8.6%, compared with 2019 levels.
The research projects a decline of up to 2,729MtCO2 (7.5%) in 2020 as a whole, depending on how the crisis plays out. It is the first to have been through the peer-review process and is broadly in line with an early estimate for China published by Carbon Brief in February, as well as separate global estimates published last month by Carbon Brief and the International Energy Agency.
Today’s study also marks the first-ever attempt to quantify CO2 emissions on a daily basis, for the world and for 69 individual countries, in close to real time. Until now, annual CO2 emissions data has typically been published months or even years later.
A publicly available daily estimate of global or national CO2 emissions would be “incredibly useful, particularly for motivating policy action and pressure”, another researcher tells Carbon Brief.
The ongoing coronavirus crisis has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world and seen the introduction of severe restrictions on movement in many countries.
These lockdowns have included “stay at home” orders, border closures and other measures that have had direct effects on the use of energy and, consequently, on the release of CO2 emissions.
As the crisis has unfolded, so too have attempts to quantify its impact on CO2 emissions. These efforts have been challenging, however, because real-time CO2 emissions data does not exist.
The annual emissions inventories that countries submit to the UN take years to compile – and even these are estimates rather than direct measurements.
Greenhouse gas emissions are estimated using a variety of methods, often based on “activity data”. This might be the number of miles being driven, the amount of electricity generated or even – in the case of nitrous oxide, which is used as a propellant – via cream consumption.
Today’s study, published in Nature Climate Change, combines activity data for six sectors with a “confinement index” of lockdown measures in each country or region over time.
This allows for an estimate of changes in daily global CO2 emissions in January-April 2020, relative to the 100MtCO2 released on an average day in 2019.
During peak confinement in individual countries, daily CO2 emissions fell by 26% on average, the paper says. However, the size of this effect is reduced at a global level, because not all countries were under the most severe type of lockdown at the same time.
At the peak of the crisis in early April, regions responsible for 89% of daily CO2 emissions were under some form of lockdown, the paper says. Daily global CO2 emissions fell to 83MtCO2 (-17%, with a range of -11 to -25%) on 7 April, equivalent to levels last seen in 2006.
“Population confinement has led to drastic changes in energy use and CO2 emissions. These extreme decreases are likely to be temporary, however, as they do not reflect structural changes in the economic, transport, or energy systems.”
In order to estimate daily global CO2 emissions, the researchers use a novel approach that combines sectoral activity data with a country-by-country confinement index.
The paper looks at six sectors, shown in the chart below according to their share of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and cement. These are electricity and heat (44%); industry (22%); surface transport (20%); homes (6%); public buildings and commerce (4%); and aviation (3%).
Notably, this split highlights the limited potential for individual actions to radically reduce global emissions, in contrast to the societal choices that govern CO2 from electricity and industry.
The split in global CO2 emissions, shown above, is then broken down further for each of 69 countries, 50 US states and 30 Chinese provinces, which account for 97% of the global total. This gives industrial CO2 emissions in Italy, for example, on an average day in 2019.
The paper then uses 669 datasets, covering each of these sectors over time, and classified according to the level of confinement in place at each point. For example, this might be daily reports on mobility, traffic and congestion to measure “activity” for surface transport.
This daily data is then adjusted to remove effects unrelated to coronavirus, such as the mild northern hemisphere winter or the day of the week.
Under the highest level of confinement, surface transport “activity” fell by 50% on average, the paper finds. This is shown in green in the chart, below, where each dot represents a single data point, open circles show the average and the horizontal lines show the variability between datasets. The chart also shows changes in activity for electricity, industry, homes and aviation.
For electricity, the paper looks at total daily demand in Europe, the US and India, finding an average 15% reduction in demand under strict lockdown. In industry, the paper looks at daily coal use in China reported by Carbon Brief and weekly reports on steel production in the US.
For homes, the paper draws on figures from UK smart meters. And for aviation – the most strongly affected sector – it uses data on domestic and international departures around the world.
As the chart above shows, the analysis relies on relatively sparse information for industry, whereas activity levels in transport draw on a wider range of datasets.
The team then uses the average change in activity, for each sector and level of confinement, to build up an estimate of daily CO2 emissions around the world.
For example, on days when Turkey is under the strictest lockdown, the analysis assumes that its power-sector CO2 emissions would fall by 15% compared with the average in 2019 – and those from surface transport by 50%.
When Turkey shifts from “confinement index three”, the strictest controls, down to level two, its power-sector emissions would be 5% below usual levels and transport 40% lower. For each confinement level, the same percentage reductions are assumed to apply to all countries.
This approach means that the team only needed to know when each country, state or province changed its coronavirus lockdown from one “confinement level” to another, as well as the daily average level of CO2 emissions from each sector in 2019.
Putting all of these countries and lockdown levels together, the paper finds that the cut in daily global CO2 emissions peaked at -17% on 7 April, shown in the figure, below. Across the first four months of 2020, emissions fell by 1,048MtCO2 (8.6%), compared with 2019 levels.
Within this global total, the largest impacts were in China, where emissions fell by an estimated 242MtCO2 in the first four months of the year, followed by the US (-207MtCO2), Europe (-123MtCO2) and India (-98MtCO2).
Dr Glen Peters, research director at Norwegian climate institute Cicero and one of the study authors, tells Carbon Brief that while the approach was designed around the current crisis, the team has gathered the “raw material” to make daily CO2 estimates on an ongoing basis. He says:
“We have discussed more ‘real-time’ estimates for sometime and there are many advantages. We are illustrating one advantage with our paper to see the consequences of particular policy interventions in near real time.”
But Peters notes that some of the daily data they used – the urban congestion index series from satnav maker TomTom, for example – is only being made publicly available during the current crisis and might be made private again in the future. He also asks whether daily data is truly needed, or whether weekly or even monthly estimates might be sufficient for scientists and policymakers.
“I think daily CO2 estimates would be incredibly useful, particularly for motivating policy action and pressure…Climate change already has the classic long-termism problem, but this is exacerbated by the fact that we get a figure on CO2 emissions published once a year, as a marker of how each country is doing.”
If daily CO2 estimates were publicly available for all countries, it would become possible to actively track progress, she says, adding: “You can have a counter on the news, or an app or dashboard on your phone – just like we do with other metrics like stock markets.”
Today’s research is not the first to analyse the CO2 impacts of the coronavirus crisis, although it is the first to have completed its passage through peer review.
Another paper, which is currently in review, also attempts to estimate daily global CO2 emissions in close to real time. This work finds the coronavirus crisis cut global emissions by -542MtCO2 below 2019 levels in the first quarter of 2020, similar to the -530MtCO2 figure from today’s paper.
In mid-February, Carbon Brief published an analysis showing that emissions in China were temporarily cut by 200MtCO2 (25%) over a four-week period, during the height of the restrictions. The new study finds that the cut in Chinese emissions peaked at 24%.
Today’s research also includes estimates of the emissions impact in 2020 as a whole, based on three scenarios for the length of lockdowns around the world. These entail CO2 emissions falling by between -4% and -8%, depending on how the crisis plays out. This range is consistent with estimates published in April byCarbon Brief (-6%) and the International Energy Agency (-8%).
Across the world, millions of people have tested positive for Covid-19 – and countless more have seen their lifestyles completely transformed as a result of the virus.
It is not yet known exactly what triggered the current outbreak, but researchers suspect that the virus passed from bats to humans through an unknown intermediary animal, possibly a pangolin.
Politicians in the UK have called this pandemic a “once-in-a-century” crisis. But scientists have warned that the ongoing disturbance of species through human activities and climate change could be raising the risk of potentially pandemic-causing diseases passing from animals to humans.
The study of the “spillover” of disease from animals to humans has received renewed focus in light of the pandemic. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a major international collaboration of climate scientists – is now looking into how the influence of warming on such events could be included in its next major climate report due next year.
In this explainer, Carbon Brief examines what is known about how climate change and biodiversity disturbance, including habitat loss and human-animal conflict, could influence the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans.
How does an animal-to-human disease spillover turn to a pandemic?
When humans come into contact with other animals, they can pass harmful pathogens between one another. The passing of an infection or disease from a vertebrate animal to a human is known as a “zoonosis”, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (Vertebrate animals include mammals, birds and reptiles, but not insects, such as mosquitoes.)
Such diseases have a major impact on health, accounting for two-thirds of all human infectious diseases and three out of four newly emerging diseases.
Serious diseases that have spilled over from animals to humans include Ebola in Africa, Marburg in Europe (and subsequently in Africa), Hendra virus in Australia and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Nipah virus in east Asia. Some have gone on to have a lasting, global impact, such as HIV/AIDS and swine flu (H1N1). The current Covid-19 pandemic was also most likely caused by a spillover.
The number of potentially harmful viruses circulating in mammal and bird populations that have not yet spilled over to humans is estimated to be up to 1.7m, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). (IPBES is an independent group of international researchers monitoring biodiversity issues).
The spillover of disease from animals to people can happen in many ways, including directly through animal bites, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal meat or products such as milk, or through contaminated water. Diseases can also spread indirectly if humans come into contact with a surface that has been contaminated by an infected animal. Both wild animals and livestock can pass on disease.
(Sometimes, transmission occurs through an intermediary species that can carry the disease without getting sick. Scientists suspect this is how the Covid-19 pandemic started.)
Out in the wild and in settings where humans and animals come into contact, these kinds of interactions happen regularly – and it is rare for one to end with a human being infected by a new disease, explains Dr David Redding, a research fellow at the Zoological Society of London. He tells Carbon Brief:
“There are lots of different factors that need to all overlap at the same time for there to be a contact that is both effective in terms of transferring a live pathogenic organism and then also for that very rare situation where that pathogen has an adaptation that allows it to invade our immune system.”
Even if a disease is effectively transmitted from an animal to a person, it is unlikely that they will then pass it on to someone else, he adds:
“I would say most – possibly 99% – of all diseases that are caused in that way can’t then be passed on. So we’ve got another ‘filter’ that dictates that people have to be infected in a particular way that allows them to shed viruses effectively to other people.”
This “virus shedding” can happen in various ways. Like other respiratory diseases, Covid-19 can be transmitted when a carrier coughs or sneezes in close proximity to another person. (Scientists are still debating whether the virus can also be passed on in other ways.)
The ability of the new pathogen to spread directly from person to person is a key ingredient for a disease to take hold in a population, Redding says. (Some animal-borne diseases require a vector to spread from person to person, such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.)
An illness outbreak is said to become an “epidemic” when its impact on people in a single community or region is “clearly in excess of normal expectancy”, according to the WHO. The term “pandemic” describes the worldwide spread of a new disease. (When a disease is “endemic” it has a continuous presence in a population or area.)
Since 1900, there have been pandemics at “intervals of several decades”, according to the WHO. The worst in this time period was Spanish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people from 1918-19.
Prior to Covid-19, every outbreak considered to be a pandemic by the WHO since 1900 has been caused by influenza, a virus that transmits from person to person. Some new strains of flu originate in animals, such as bird flu, but most new strains arise in human populations – and so would not be considered animal-borne.
There are many factors that can determine whether an outbreak reaches epidemic or pandemic status. These include human factors, such as preparedness and early action to prevent the illness from spreading, and also the traits of the pathogen itself, says Redding:
“The characteristics of the pathogen and its ability to spread are two key components in causing these rare events.”
For instance, if the pathogen causes very severe illness, the sufferer is less likely to be able to travel to a new place to pass on the disease, Redding says. This is also the case if the mortality rate is particularly high.
In contrast, if the disease causes mild to undetectable symptoms for at least some sufferers – as is the case with Covid-19 – it is more likely that people will inadvertently spread it to new places, he says.
This may go some way to explaining why previous serious animal-borne disease outbreaks have not reached pandemic status, Redding explains.
For example, Ebola – a disease initially spread to humans by fruit bats – has caused several serious epidemics in West Africa, but has not established itself on a worldwide scale. It has a mortality rate of around 50%. The mortality rate of Covid-19 is not yet known, though it is likely to be below 10%.
It is also worth noting that the likelihood of a disease turning to a pandemic has been heightened in recent decades by increased global connectivity, particularly through frequent air travel, Redding says:
“Plagues in the medieval times took years to spread across Asia. Whereas we look at today’s outbreaks and we can see that they can spread in hours.”
Overall, for a spillover event to turn into a pandemic, there must be a “perfect storm” of several complex factors all occurring at the same time – which, at present, does not happen very often, says Redding: “I think history shows us that these sort of large outbreaks happen a couple of times a century.”
Could climate change and biodiversity disturbance affect the risk of spillover?
Every new animal-borne disease starts with humans coming into contact with wildlife. And it is likely that climate change and the disturbance of biodiversity could play a role in shaping the frequency, timing and location of these meetings, says Prof Hans-Otto Poertner, head of biosciences at the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) and co-chair of the impacts chapter of the next major assessment report from the IPCC. He tells Carbon Brief:
“Climate change is clearly a factor that can influence these relationships. Climate change shapes the biogeographical distribution of species. If, in the future, we see species moving into areas where humans are prevalent, we could see new opportunities for pandemics to evolve.”
Research has shown that climate change is shifting where species live, both on land and in the ocean. This is because, as temperatures increase and rainfall levels change, some species are being forced to seek out new areas with climate conditions they are able to tolerate. (Species that are not able to adapt could face extinction.)
A review published in Science in 2017 looking into 40,000 species across the world found that around half are already on the move as a result of changing climate conditions.
In general, species are seeking cooler temperatures by moving towards the Earth’s poles. Land animals are moving polewards at an average rate of 10 miles per decade, whereas marine species are moving at a rate of 45 miles per decade, according to the review.
However, the movement of animals is complicated by other factors, such as the changing availability of food, the shifting distribution of predators and changing patterns of human land-use, the review says. This makes it difficult to predict exactly where species will move to.
It is likely that the movement of species will have consequences for human health, says Prof Birgitta Evengard, a senior researcher of infectious diseases at Umea University in Sweden, who was one of the authors of the review. She tells Carbon Brief:
“When land-based animals move, they bring with them their [viruses] – and they will spread them.”
So far, there has not been a great deal of research into how climate change-driven shifts to animal ranges could affect the chances of disease spillover on a global scale, says Poertner.
In one example, a research paper by Redding found that climate change could heighten the risk of new Ebola outbreaks in various parts of Africa by 2070.
This is because climate change could cause regions that are currently desert to become warmer and wetter, leading to the formation of the lush plants that bats use as a habitat. The movement of bats into these new areas could increase contact between them and humans, increasing the chances of disease spillover, the study found.
Another study found that climate change could enhance the risk of spillover of the Hendra virus, an animal-borne disease that can pass from flying foxes to humans through horses, which are also affected by the virus.
The virus was first identified when an outbreak broke out in Hendra, a suburb in Brisbane, Australia, in 1994. Since then, there have been at least eight separate outbreaks along the coast of northern Australia, according to the WHO. It has a mortality rate of 50-75%.
The research found that climate change could cause the geographic range of flying foxes to expand southwards and further inland. “Spillover events could potentially increase farther south, and inland with climate change,” the authors say.
Elsewhere, a recent preprint – a preliminary study that has not yet completed peer review – suggests that climate change could drive substantial global increases in the passing of novel diseases from mammals to humans by 2070.
Using modelling, the study maps where around 4,000 mammals species and the diseases they carry are likely to move to by 2070. It finds mammals are “predicted to aggregate at high elevations, in biodiversity hotspots, and in areas of high human population density in Asia and Africa, sharing novel viruses between 3,000 and 13,000 times”.
The authors add: “Most projected viral sharing is driven by diverse hyper-reservoirs (rodents and bats) and large-bodied predators (carnivores).”
It will be important for the IPCC to include the emerging evidence of how climate change could affect the passing of diseases from animals to humans in its next major assessment report, currently due for release in 2021-22, says Poertner:
“We expect to include aspects as they become apparent from the literature.”
The scale of the impact of climate change on wildlife is currently second only to the damage caused by human land-use change, including deforestation, other types of habitat loss and human-animal conflict.
In its first major assessment on biodiversity published in May 2019, IPBES reported that humans have “significantly altered” 75% of the land surface and 66% of the global ocean. During 2010-15, 32m hectares of natural or recovering forest were cleared by humans. This area is roughly equal to the size of Italy.
As a result of ongoing pressures on biodiversity, around one million species are currently threatened by extinction within decades, the report concluded.
The report noted that ongoing pressures on wildlife are likely to increase contact between animals and humans, altering the chances of disease spillover. In chapter three of the full report, the authors say:
“Complex links between increased human disturbance, land-use change, habitat loss/degradation and biodiversity loss have all been linked to increases in the prevalence and risk of zoonotic [animal-borne] disease for a variety of pathogens.”
However, research into how biodiversity disturbance could affect animal-borne disease risk at a global level has so far been limited, it notes:
“Causal mechanisms are only well known for a handful of infectious diseases and it is sometimes hard to pick apart the drivers of disease to isolate the direct effects of environmental change from other human actions.”
In 2018, a study warned of a possible link between deforestation in southeast Asia and a heightened risk of spillover of novel coronaviruses from bats to humans. The authors say:
“Owing to evolving land-use, bat populations are setting up in areas closer to human dwellings…This increases the risk of transmission of viruses through direct contact, domestic animal infection, or contamination by urine or faeces.”
The world’s CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 8% this year as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down much of the global economy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Such a drop would be the largest ever recorded in terms of tonnes of CO2, some six times greater than the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.
The agency’s new Global Energy Review is based on extensive data from the year so far and is intended to provide close to a real-time estimate of energy usage and emissions.
Its projections for the whole of 2020 are based on a series of assumptions including that the lockdowns, curfews and closure of schools and businesses currently in place are gradually eased over the coming months.
However, as the pandemic spreads and its devastating impacts continue to unfold, the agency makes clear that there are still “major uncertainties” about how it will play out.
The IEA’s central figure of 8% is even higher than previous estimates, including analysis conducted by Carbon Brief and published earlier this month, which was based on a less comprehensive dataset and less recent data.
An 8% cut is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions reductions needed to limit warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures. However, the stretch target laid out in the Paris Agreement would require similar reductions every year this decade.
The agency is clear that the expected decline in emissions due to a pandemic is “absolutely nothing to cheer”. Moreover, it emphasises the importance of prioritising clean energy in economic recovery plans in order to avoid a sharp rebound in emissions.
Describing the pandemic as a “a macroeconomic shock that is unprecedented in peacetime”, the IEA draws comparisons with the impact that wars and other recent crises have had on the global energy system. Some of these events can be seen in the figure below.
The report compares the covid-19 pandemic with the last financial crisis, when growth in China and India “was able to largely offset reductions elsewhere”. This time around, both nations are also feeling the effects of the disease and such an offset is unlikely.
Global energy-related emissions (top) and annual change (bottom) in GtCO2, with projected 2020 levels highlighted in red. Other major events are indicated to a give a sense of scale. Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
As it spreads to virtually every nation on the planet, the impact of coronavirus is being felt in all walks of life, but different sectors are being affected in very different ways.
Energy use for residential gas heating or electricity use for server farms and digital equipment may even show a significant increase in the coming months, the IEA says, whereas other sectors such as aviation have collapsed.
Global energy demand was 3.8% lower in the first quarter of 2020 than last year, the IEA says, and it expects the annual total to drop by 6% year-on-year in 2020.
Such a decline has not been seen for decades, as the chart below shows, and will effectively wipe out five years of demand growth.
Annual rate of change in primary energy demand, %, since 1900, with key events impacting demand highlighted. Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
CO2 emissions are expected to fall to 30.6bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) this year, an 8% drop from last year, with declining coal use the most significant factor.
The drop in coal combustion is being driven mainly by the power sector, the IEA says, together with competition from cheap natural gas and industrial slowdown. Coal demand is expected to fall 8%, but as China’s industrial sector starts up again, it is expected to go some way to offsetting larger declines.
Demand (left) and annual change in demand (right) for the total quantity of coal used globally (dark) and coal in the power sector alone (light), measured in million tonnes of coal equivalent (Mtce). The change in demand for the first quarter of 2020 (Q1) is shown in red while the projection for the full year is shown in pink. Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
Due to the global lockdown’s impact on transport, illustrated in the charts below, demand for oil has fallen at an “unprecedented scale” in the first four months of the year.
Change in road transport activity and flight numbers as a % in 2020 so far compared to the previous year, for selected countries (solid lines) and the whole world (dashed line). Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
This is particularly true for fuels used in passenger transport, namely petrol and kerosene. Meanwhile demand for diesel, a substantial portion of which is used to power vehicles that transport goods, is expected to remain stronger. Overall, oil demand is expected to drop by 9% across the year after a 29% drop in the month of April.
As a side-effect of declining transport activity, car sales are expected to decline. In March, EU sales were 55% lower than 2019 levels, and if this trend plays out in nations with fuel economy standards in place, improvements in energy efficiency will be slower, the IEA notes.
Gas demand is expected to fall less than oil or coal as it is less vulnerable to changes in transportation demand, although the IEA says it could still fall by 5%. Gas will be particularly susceptible if countries in the Middle East and North Africa enter long lockdowns, the agency says, due to their reliance on the fuel for power.
In general, nuclear power is expected to fare better than fossil fuels, with lockdowns expected to reduce global output by 3% due to falling demand and disrupted construction. Already, delays have been announced to projects in China and Finland, and more are expected in the UK, US and France.
As the figure below shows, lockdowns in recent months have pushed down electricity demand significantly, with the strongest impacts found in nations with service-based economies and the strictest lockdowns, such as Italy.
Weather-corrected change in electricity demand, %, in selected countries implementing full (solid lines) or partial lockdowns (dashed lines), by number of days since their lockdowns began. Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
It is worth noting that as pointed out in Carbon Brief’s recent analysis, it is difficult to assign effects specifically to coronavirus as many other factors will influence energy demand and emissions over the course of the year.
As an example, the IEA points to “milder than average” weather throughout most of the northern hemisphere in the first quarter of the year, which played a part in pushing down energy demand due to less gas being used for heating.
As fossil fuel use sank in the first few months of 2020, renewables remained stable, as in general they are given priority access to electricity grids and are not required to adjust their output based on demand.
Combined with rising capacity as new wind and solar facilities are built, this means that renewable electricity generation rose by almost 3% in the first quarter of the year.
As a result, renewables achieved record-high hourly shares in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Hungary and parts of the US. Analysis just published by Carbon Brief shows a similar trend, with wind and solar reaching a record-high share of generation across Europe over the past 30 days.
These records reflect a rising renewable share of the electricity mix of countries around the world – where demand has declined during lockdowns – as shown in the chart, below.
Changes in the electricity mixes of key emitters in 2020 so far, with the implementation of lockdown strategies indicated by grey shading. Source: IEAGlobal Energy Review.
In fact, renewables are also the only energy sources expected to grow this year “regardless of the length of lockdown or strength of recovery”, the report states. This can be seen in the figure below.
Projected % change in primary energy demand by fuel type in 2020 compared to the previous year, with renewables (green) showing the only positive change. Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
The chart below shows how a pandemic recovery, in which restrictions are gradually loosened over the course of the year, is expected to push low-carbon electricity sources to 40% of power generation in 2020, extending the slight lead on coal achieved last year. This would be the highest level on record, albeit due in part to a 5% dip in total electricity demand.
Global generation % shares from coal (red line) and low-carbon sources (shaded area), including nuclear (yellow) and all renewables (different shades of green). Source: IEA Global Energy Review.
New projects coming online this year are expected to increase wind and solar’s share of global electricity generation up to 9%, twice as high as levels seen just five years ago.
The IEA estimates total renewable energy use, including for heat and transport, will rise by about 1% in 2020, and there will still be an increase even if economic recovery is slow.
However, despite being more resilient than other industries, the renewable sector has still faced challenges. The end of 2020 marks an important deadline for new wind projects in the US and China to receive tax credits and subsidies, but progress on these projects is now highly uncertain.
In a recent blog post, IEA analyst Heymi Bahar writes that what was meant to be “an outstanding year for renewables” has been hindered by supply chain and labour disruptions linked to the pandemic.
Wind turbine manufacture has been hit particularly hard due to a very global supply chain compared with solar panels, which are largely manufactured in China.
Methods and discrepancies
When Carbon Brief attempted to calculate a figure for total CO2 emissions decline this year due to coronavirus, it reached a slightly more modest figure of 5.5%, compared to the IEA’s 8%.
This analysis was based on five key datasets that cover roughly three-quarters of the world’s annual CO2 emissions, with the expectation that the elements not covered would have added to the final total.
The IEA has access to a much larger array of detailed information, and its analysis was based on data available up until mid-April including country submissions to the IEA, other statistical releases from national administrations and estimates by the agency itself when official data was missing.
Published on Carbon Brief, 30 April 2020, under a CC license. Unadapted material may be reproduced in full for non-commercial use, credited ‘Carbon Brief’ with a link to the article.
Gerhard Richter’s “Schädel” (oil on canvas), the first of a series of eight skull paintings painted in 1983, was held in the same collection for 30 years after a last public exhibition in 1988.
Based on a photograph taken by Richter himself, the painting demonstrates a “dialogue between painterly abstraction and photo-realist representation that had been simmering across separate stands of Richter’s practice for nearly two decades.”
This painting led the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale held at Christie’s London on 4 October 2018.
With an unpublished estimate, the painting was expected to sell for between £12 and £18 million (US$15 – US$23 million).
Bidding reached £11.5 million. The painting was not allowed to change hands.
Note also the instance of Edward Hopper’s 1972 painting, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” that sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 November. It closed narrowly, at what may have been a precisely agreed threshold of $80 million – with what appeared to be Christie’s bidding against itself to reach the sales price.
California, in so many ways, could learn from the US Northeast.
To reduce CO2 and and greenhouse gas emissions from cars, a continuing and increasing issue in California and elsewhere, cities need data—ways to accurately measure emissions, pinpoint sources, and monitor change over time; cities need to know how much CO2 they are producing and reducing.
A tool called ACES (Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System) was developed in response to the requirement for data by researchers at Boston University and Harvard. ACES offers finely-grained maps of CO2 emissions, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly.
As we know, per our atmosphere – the air, its particular mix of gaseous elements, and its temperatures, together vital to life, inclusive of human, animal, and plant – CO2 and other greenhouse gases are an issue, in many ways.
California has “targets” to meet by the year 2020 for limiting the greenhouse gases associated with the driving that people do on a daily basis. The approach to greenhouse gases associated with the driving that people do on a daily basis has a heightened level of complexity in California. Driving a car, rather than availing oneself of public transportation such as a subway, metro, or bus, is a norm that people are highly unwilling and actually afraid to examine and rethink. The many localities within the state have made limited investment in public transportation in significant part because taking such modes of transportation is largely considered to be beneath the dignity – whether personal, social, or professional – of and compromising to anybody with a sense of self esteem.
While the “hope” has been that climate emissions might be curbed largely by promoting regional planning of denser development along transit lines ( S.B. 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, a landmark 2008 deal, with the California legislature recognizing the critical role of integrated transportation, land use, and housing decisions to meet state climate goals), the California Air Resources Board 2018 Progress Report released in November documents that driving of cars has skyrocketed statewide during the years following the recession of 2008 – 2009 through 2016.
A “key finding of this report is that California is not on track to meet the greenhouse gas reductions expected under SB 375 for 2020, with emissions from statewide passenger vehicle travel per capita increasing and going in the wrong direction” (page 4) and “emissions from the transportation sector continuing to rise despite increases in fuel efficiency and decreases in the carbon content of fuel” (page 5).
Top air quality officials in California state they currently have no way to fully assess whether regions from San Diego to Sacramento are on track to meet 2020 targets for reigning in greenhouse gases associated with daily driving. While “greenhouse gas emissions considered under the SB 375 program reflect carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions only from light-duty passenger vehicles” (page 21, footnote 22), the California Air Resources Board 2018 Progress Report states, “SB 375 passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions reductions cannot be directly measured because greenhouse gas emissions come from many sources” (page 21).
Air board officials said that while they tracked the key metric of vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, available statewide through fuel sales, that same information wasn’t available regionally. Without that, officials say there is no consistent way to extrapolate greenhouse gas emissions from driving for each region.
“There’s no unifying way to bring it all together and say ‘You’re at this particular performance metric,’” said Nicole Dolney, chief of the air board’s transportation planning branch. “Our hope was that we would have VMT data that we could rely on, but it wasn’t there.”
So what might California learn from ACES?
“For cities to cut down CO2, they need to know how much they are producing and reducing. Most cities get rough estimates with “carbon calculators” that account for the size and population of a city, electricity used, and an estimate of how many cars zip (or crawl) through the city streets.
“The calculation would be fine except for all those cars. Cars are the hardest part of the emissions equation to quantify. They are moving all the time at different speeds, and there are different cars on the road at different times of day.”
“There are other factors to consider. There’s the make of the car, of course: a Toyota Prius gives off less CO2 than a Chevy Silverado. There’s also the speed; most cars give off the least CO2 when cruising in a “sweet spot” between 40 and 60 miles per hour.”
(Conor Gately, co-developer of ACES; PhD, Geography and Environment, Boston University, 2016; lead author on a study examining cities, traffic, and CO2,published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in April 2015.)
ACES (Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System) has been developed by Lucy Hutyra of Boston University and Conor Gately, now a postdoctoral associate working jointly at Boston University and Harvard. A tool for measuring and mapping CO2 emissions, ACES offers finely-grained maps of CO2 emissions, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly, is relevant and could be helpful to the cities and the state of California.
“Cities have the political will to change emissions, and they have policy levers to pull,” says Lucy Hutyra, a Boston University College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) associate professor of Earth and environment. And because cities are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the United Nations, their actions matter. But to take effective action, cities need data—ways to accurately measure emissions, pinpoint sources, and monitor change over time. And so Hutyra and her colleague Conor Gately have developed a tool called ACES, for Anthropogenic Carbon Emissions System, that offers the finest-grained maps of CO2 emissions in the Northeastern US to date, with a resolution of 1km2, totaled hourly. The tool, funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System and detailed in the October 12, 2017, issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres, could provide valuable data to cities nationwide.
“‘The goal was to take the finest grained, most local data possible and build a ‘bottom-up’ inventory,” says Gately. The research team started by divvying up the sources of emissions on a giant whiteboard. “We did every sector of emissions of CO2,” he says. “Roads, residential buildings, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, power plants, airports, marine ports, shipping, and railway.” The group searched for data from 2011, scouring every source they could find: city and country records, household fuel estimates, EPA databases, hundreds of traffic sensors located around New England. All of these data, when combined with the amount of fossil fuels consumed in the region (gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, coal and natural gas for power generation), allowed the team to calculate CO2 emissions for all of the major sources. The team then calculated emissions for every hour of the year.
“Gately, working with a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is now expanding ACES to cover the entire continental United States and meeting with government, scientific, and policy stakeholders to help create a core set of methods and data products.”
DARTE might also be helpful. DARTE, the Database of Road Transportation Emissions (Conor Gately, Lucy Hutyra, Ian Sue Wing) is available for free download from the Harvard Dataverse
Funded by grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE), Gately has developed a more precise way to tally CO2 emissions from vehicles. He used 33 years of traffic data to build the Database of Road Transportation Emissions (DARTE), which displays CO2 data for the contiguous US on a finer scale than ever before—a one-kilometer grid. (He hopes to add Alaska and Hawaii later.) Available for free download, DARTE could change the way cities and states measure greenhouse gas emissions.
“The science is coming together to bring us very fine measurements in a way never possible before,” says Lucy Hutyra, an assistant professor of earth and environment and a coauthor on the PNAS study. Hutyra says that DARTE complements NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, which is collecting global data on atmospheric carbon dioxide. “We need good bottom-up data to match what we’re measuring looking down from space. That’s what we need to really advance greenhouse gas policies.”
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is a privately owned contemporary art museum in Oslo, Norway. The museum was funded by two philanthropic organizations, the Thomas Fearnley Foundation and the Heddy and Nils Astrup Foundation, that merged in 1995 to form the Thomas Fearnley, Heddy and Nils Astrup Foundation.
Established and opened to the public in 1993, the museum moved into two new buildings in 2012.
The collecting focus of the museum is Norwegian and international contemporary art. Artists represented include Olafur Eliasson, Francis Bacon, Janine Antoni, Dan Colen, Cao Fei, Olav Christoper Jenssen, Elmgreen & Dragset, Jeff Koons, Fischli & Weiss, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Charles Ray, Gerhard Richter, Torbjørn Rødland, Matthew Ronay, Cindy Sherman, and Christopher Wool.
The Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée de l’Orangerie have each launched their Plan de Protection Contre les Inondations (PPCI; protection plan against flooding). The Musée du Louvre has closed the lower level of its department of Islamic Arts until Sunday (28 January) as a “preventive measure” from flood damage.”
Recognizing the capacity of trees and plants to absorb carbon pollution and the critical need for urban forests, Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri has contributed to the design of Liuzhou Forest City, now under construction in China.
Intended to help provide homes for a rapidly growing population without creating more carbon pollution, the plan calls for terraced buildings with almost a million plants and 40,000 trees.
Should you have interest in tangible assets such as works of art, art collections, luxury, and/or real estate, all of which interact physically with their surroundings and all of which are affected by carbon pollution (excess of CO2), this news will be of interest.
Should you wish your tangible assets to perform at an optimal level, please feel free to be in touch.