Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The novel coronavirus, upending our world as we know it, is also changing how we consume energy and address climate change.

Driving the news: The various impacts are occurring both now and into the future. Most changes don’t bode well for acting on climate change and transitioning to cleaner energy.

Five changes happening now:

Lower emissions

Global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to drop this year, due to the global economy faltering. That’s not a silver lining to the novel coronavirus. It’s like a person who loses weight while sick. It’s a byproduct of a bad situation and by definition should and will not last.

Indeed, since the Industrial Revolution, the world’s emissions have not gone down except briefly during economic crises. These incidents merely show how difficult it is to reduce emissions in an economically sustainable way.

Collapsing oil industry

Already struggling with tanking stocks and pressure over climate change, the world’s oil and gas industry is spiraling out of control toward rock-bottom prices. Three factors are converging:

  1. Abundant supply.
  2. Demand destruction caused by the coronavirus shutting down major economies.
  3. A supply and price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, largely in response to the first two, which pushes prices even lower.

A lot of smaller companies are likely to go bankrupt or substantially shrink, while bigger producers may see more value in their nascent renewables investments.

How it works: Returns in oil have traditionally been better than in renewables. “But there are no returns in oil and gas projects, so what now?" asks Valentina Kretzschmar, corporate research director at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

Supply and tax troubles for renewable energy

Wind and solar companies are warning about stunted supply chains and tax uncertainty due to borders closing around the world and related economic slowdowns.

Changing energy patterns

All of us working from home will ultimately save energy use in buildings, according to data from Houston-based energy analytics company Innowatts.

By the numbers:

  • The company predicts that U.S. daily residential use will increase by 6%–8%.
  • Demand from educational and commercial buildings will drop by 30% and 25%, respectively, more than offsetting the growth in home energy use.
Advocacy disrupted

Online grassroots environmentalism isn't going to be as effective as mass gatherings and protests, high-profile campaigner Bill McKibben conceded last week.

Yes, but: Some groups are seeing upsides. Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform, has seen its usage skyrocket. Its clients include a wide range of organizations and companies, including environmental and energy-industry interests.

  • Over the last week, more than 1 million people sent more than 2.3 million messages to Congress.
  • In the same period last month, the group had roughly 150,000 people and 290,000 messages to Congress.

Five changes poised to occur over time:

Green lessons

We’re all learning how remote meetings, panels and other events work. To the extent that companies stick with these habits once we’re all able to work and travel like normal again, these changes could have a more lasting impact on our energy use, particularly in transportation.

Recession worries

As the world craters into a recession — one possibly worse than the Great Depression — longer-term problems, including climate change, are likely to go to the back burner. Two signs emerging already:

  1. China is considering relaxing car-pollution rules in what Bloomberg News described as a possible retreat on climate change.
  2. The Eurasia Group said last week: "Coronavirus will shift global attention and resources away from addressing climate change.”
Stimulus plans

The International Energy Agency is among the most prominent voices calling on governments around the world to incorporate clean energy into any economic stimulus plans.

  • So far that’s not happening, but the renewable energy industry is one of many battered sectors asking Congress for help in any stimulus package the government passes.
  • Democrats are also calling on climate-change conditions for any airline bailout.
(Even) less multilateralism

The world was going nationalistic even before the coronavirus hit, and now countries are literally closing their borders and looking inward as they deal with their domestic problems brought on by the coronavirus. That's having an especially strong impact on oil-producing countries.

“It [climate diplomacy] has never been easy. And arguably it has just become more difficult for countries to agree,” said Kretzschmar, of Wood Mackenzie. “Especially for oil-and-gas producing countries that will be hugely affected by this slump in oil prices. Revenues are going to be decimated.”

The election (remember that?)

If Trump wins re-election, any big energy and climate policy remains unlikely. But if Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, wins, it seems more likely now than before the coronavirus that he could aim to help the economy similar to the way the Obama administration did after the 2008 economic crash.

“The 2009 Recovery Act was the single most important piece of federal legislation ever to help the clean energy sector,” said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas for BloombergNEF. Clean-energy technologies received some $90 billion in government support.

But, but, but: The economy may be on the mend by then, which feels like a lifetime from now in our current time horizon.

Go deeper: Coronavirus shows how slow-moving climate change is

Go deeper

12 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

12 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 13 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!