The novel coronavirus has completely transformed our way of living, forcing us to social distance, work from home, and even shelter in place. Society is functioning differently and through the treacherous and scary unknowns, we’ve caught the glimpse of what looks like a silver lining. Major behavior changes have forced a decline in CO2 emissions, but there’s a much healthier, more sustainable solution to reducing emissions – and that is the widespread use of geothermal heat pump systems.
Coronavirus Could Cause the Largest Ever Annual Fall in CO2
An analysis by Carbon Brief confirms that the COVID-19 crisis has “temporarily cut CO2 emissions in China by 25%, with emissions still below normal more than two months after the country entered lock down.” According to Carbon Brief, pre-crisis estimates suggested CO2 emissions would rise by more than 1% in 2020. Their latest estimates show that the pandemic could cause the largest-ever annual fall in CO2 emissions – more than any other period of economic crisis or world war. These (probably temporary) declines could be due to effects of the coronavirus like decreased electricity demand, limited transportation, and reduced industrial activity.
A Much More Sustainable Solution
The ratio between CO2 emissions and economic growth is called carbon intensity. Right now, the two outputs are closely related – meaning a suffering economy results in decreased emissions. In other words, the sudden decline in emissions that we’re seeing comes with serious negative consequences to our economy. In order to really make a positive, and sustainable difference, we need to reduce our carbon intensity and support energy-efficient, low-carbon technologies.
There are two primary reasons why geothermal heat pump systems are a sustainable solution to reducing our carbon intensity. First, geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) require zero fossil fuel burning. Instead of heating through combustion, GHPs simply transfer the natural and constant heat from below the surface of the earth. In addition, GHPs are extremely energy efficient, with efficiencies reaching as high as 400%. A report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), confirms the potential of GHPs finding that retrofitting all existing residential space heating, space cooling and water heating systems in US single-family homes would cut C02 emissions in single-family homes by 45.3%. These types of significant retrofits, combined with commercial retrofits, provide a sustainable solution to reducing emissions while improving economy – thus lowering carbon intensity.
While these drastic declines in CO2 emissions are shedding a light on the prominent impact that our lifestyle has on the environment, it is likely only temporary and surely comes with negative consequences to our economy. Eventually businesses will reopen, transportation will ramp up and carbon emissions will flare. That is, unless we make great strides towards changing the structure of our energy use. It is the widespread use of energy-efficient, renewable energy technology, like GHPs, that will help to lower our carbon intensity in a beneficial and sustainable way.