Fuzzy Math Leads to a (Serious) Reevaluation of Shipping's Climate Impact

big ship

Image courtesy of tinou bao via flickr
The Guardian's John Vidal has the scoop on a leaked UN study that reveals the extent to which previous estimates have low-balled - by almost two-thirds - the amount of emissions produced by the world's shipping fleet. Annual carbon dioxide emissions have now reached a whopping 1.12b tons - almost 4.5% of all global carbon dioxide emissions - a far cry from the 400m tons figure the IPCC had previously pegged.

In what must surely come as a slap to EU nations - which do not take these into account when calculating their emissions targets - the study suggests that shipping emissions will continue their meteoric rise - surging another 30% by 2020 - joining vehicles, housing and industry as one of the largest single sources of anthropogenic GHG emissions. To obtain these new figures, a team of international researchers, tasked by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), crunched the numbers collected from the oil and shipping industries. The results weren't pretty. The scientists hope the study will prompt EU nations, which have consistently downplayed the contribution of their merchant fleets to climate change and refused to include them in their national emissions estimates, to incorporate shipping emissions into the next UN climate treaty - at the very least.

The study also found that other shipping-related pollutants, including sulphur and soot, were on the rise; these harmful emissions, which are known to cause lung cancer and various respiratory diseases - another study found they contributed to over 60,000 deaths a year - are projected to increase by over 30% in the next 12 years.

While it's encouraging to see some companies taking the initiative in switching over to cleaner (and innovative) technologies, pressure - in the form of new regulations and incentives - will need to be placed on all parties to ensure large-scale reform and the adoption of better practices. Given the heavy pressure that the aviation industry has been under to reform its ways - its annual emissions, around 650m tons, (almost) pale by comparison - it seems only fair, and necessary, that governments start cracking down on the shipping industry as well.

Via ::The Guardian: True scale of C02 emissions from shipping revealed (news website)

See also: ::First Transatlantic Voyage of Kite-powered Ship, ::EPA Petitioned to Limited CO2 Emissions from Ships