This paper argues that, in 2020, the beneficial atmospheric effect from the reduction in aviation may have been at least 7-8 times greater than that occurring from the reduction in fossil carbon dioxide emissions from all sectors. Specifically, compared to potential atmospheric effects in 2020 without the pandemic, the decrease in effective radiative forcing from reduced contrail-cirrus formation may have been in the order of 35mWm-2 in 2020, compared to a reduction of only 4-5mWm-2 from the drop in fossil CO2 emissions. Over time, pursuing a low carbon pathway generates benefits that mount up to be much more significant than 2020 effects might imply, and is essential to stabilise the climate. However, a twin-track policy focus may be needed, with more emphasis on reducing short-term climate forcing, to minimise the impacts of climate change now, and to avoid detrimental feedback events. Future policy decisions about aviation should be made in this context.
Cairns, S. 2021. The potential climatic significance of the global reduction in aviation during the pandemic. Preprints 2020, 2020120266. doi: 10.20944/preprints202012.0266.v2Opens in a new tab
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