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Coronavirus 'Really Not the Way You Want to Decrease Emissions'

Cheap oil, lower investment in renewables and a post-virus rebound will likely offset the emissions drop, but there are climate lessons in the response to the virus.

As the global economy shudders in reaction to the coronavirus, lessons are emerging about what that response can—and cannot—tell us about fighting climate change.

Economists and policy analysts say they are most concerned about how the current financial disruption could harm the efforts of countries, international organizations and companies to reduce emissions. They think any drop in emissions tied to the virus will be short-lived, while the continuing drop in oil prices could encourage more consumption and hurt demand for low- or no-carbon products like electric vehicles.

At the same time, the response to COVID-19 is demonstrating that in the face of a large and imminent threat, it is possible to get people to change their behavior—something climate change activists have been trying to do for decades. Some of those changes—an increase in telecommuting, for example—have climate benefits that could last beyond the current crisis.

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