Researchers at MaREI, the SFI research centre in energy, climate and marine at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI), University College Cork (UCC), reveal today the first full picture of the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on Ireland's energy related pollution levels.
Since Covid-19 restrictions came into force the use of planes, trains and automobiles have all seen a dramatic fall and this snapshot illustrates exactly what impact these restrictions on movement across the nation are having on Ireland's pollution levels.
The analysis examines Ireland's pollution levels prior to lockdown measures and compares it with those levels during lockdown, among the findings is that pollution from cars has dropped by 50%, but air pollution from soild fuel burning has not changed. The analysis also shows that for every week we are in lockdown Irish people will reclaim 5 hours that would have otherwise been spent stuck in their car. 9 out of 10 flights have been cancelled since restrictions commenced and if flight restrictions continue, it would be the equivalent of equivalent of switching off Moneypoint coal fired power station for 6 months, the research shows. At home, every day is the weekend, as our electricity usage pattern now replicates a weekend demand profile 7 days a week.
The analysis – The Pandemic and Ireland’s Energy System – what are the impacts for greenhouse gas emissions? (See attached) – examines Ireland’s use of transport, heat, and electricity to show air pollution levels. The analysis shows the following;
TRANSPORT - sizeable reduction in activity
The energy we use for transport accounts for about 40% of Ireland’s energy consumption. Carbon dioxide emissions from private cars are nearly twice the amount of flights. Travelling to work and school accounts for over a third of the journeys taken by Irish people each year. For example, each week the school run requires Irish parents to drive a staggering 7 million kilometres, emitting an estimated of 1.2 ktCO2 (1200 tonnes) of CO2 emissions. That is equivalent to the annual driving of about 400 cars. In Ireland, flights are responsible for 3.3 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 emission every year, which is the equivalent of 1 car driving 363,000 laps of the planet. 90% of rail energy service demand in Ireland is met by oil, the remaining by electricity
The analysis today shows the impact of Covid-19 restrictions across Ireland’s transport sector:
Automobiles (See animation at link below)
HEAT – Construction sector getting ready to back to work
Ireland’s housing stock uses a lot of oil and gas for heating, as well as solid fuels such as peat, coal and timber. Peat, coal and timber are also among the main sources of hazardous local air pollution in Ireland.
The analysis today shows:
ELECTRICITY – Everyday is the weekend
During this time of significant remote virtual working, electricity has become our primary source of energy aiding in executing office work, lighting and entertainment.
The analysis today shows:
AIR POLLUTION – solid fuel pollutants have seen no drop
The World Health Organisation estimates annual deaths of 1,500 per year are attributable to outdoor air pollution in Ireland. Data from the European Environment Agency's (EEA) has shown how concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — a pollutant mainly emitted by road transport and to a lesser extent electricity generation — have decreased in many European cities. NO2 has been linked to increased levels of lung conditions ranging from asthma and bronchitis to respiratory-related hospital admissions and emergency room visits. There are many different types and sources of air pollution in Ireland, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which refers to tiny particles produced mainly from solid fuel burning (Peat, Coal and Timber). PM2.5 is linked to increased incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and higher death rates.
Today’s analysis shows
“Covid-19 Lockdown measures across the globe are creating a natural experiment for climate and energy researchers to observe how extreme demand scenarios can drive large scale fossil fuel demand destruction and collapse oil market prices. By exploring the impact these restrictions are having on Ireland’s pollution levels, we are also seeking to understand feasible actions to mitigate climate change” commented one of the UCC based researchers, Dr James Glynn.
“We need to make long-term, equitable and sustainable changes to our lifestyles, to our economy and to our energy system” commented Dr Glynn. “Climate change mitigation is a marathon event requiring rapid and sustained steady changes in how we consume energy.”