UK Carbon Emissions From Shipping Six Times Higher Than Reported: New Study

shipping containers photo

photo: Steve Gibson/ via flickr

There've been lots of attempt to calculate the true climate change cost of globalized shipping of goods on a nation-by-nation basis, with divergent results based upon where the boundaries are drawn. A new attempt at that from the University of Manchester says that carbon emissions of shipping in the UK may be up to six times higher than normally reported. The way in which those emissions are calculated makes all the difference.Usually, UK emissions from this sector are calculated based upon bunker fuel sales in UK ports. However, the researchers says that this is an inaccurate method as many carriers choose to refuel in neighboring countries (such as at Rotterdam in the Netherlands) due to lower fuel costs there.

Basing emission calculations on the emissions of ships involved in UK trade is more accurate they say. Shockingly, if this is done the emissions from shipping goods to the UK results in higher emissions than even the airline industry.

On the basis of its international bunker fuel sales, UK international shipping emissions for 2006 were around seven megatonnes of carbon dioxide (7 MtCO2).

However the report, prepared by researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Sustainable Consumption Institute, claims it is fairer to calculate UK emissions on the basis of shipped goods exported from or imported into the UK. On this basis, UK emissions rise considerably to 31 or 42 MtCO2 respectively. (Science Daily)

Ships Are Efficient, But Expanding Scale Still Means Big Impact
Though transporting goods by ship remains the most fuel efficient method of moving goods and people across oceans, the expanding scale of globalized shipping means that it currently amounts to 3% of total global emissions. What's more, global shipping continues to expand, outpacing genuine efforts by the companies involved to reduce emissions and fuel use.

Where You Draw The Margins Defines the Picture
Previous attempts to make more accurate assessments of shipping emissions on a national basis have often focused on the emissions associated with goods consumed in a nation, but manufactured elsewhere. Using these parameters, UK emissions (here including those involved in air shipment) have been calculated to be 49% higher than reported.

On the other end of the supply chain, estimates show that 33% of China's national emissions are associated directly with manufacturing goods consumed abroad. Already leading the world in aggregate emissions, dividing those up on a per capita basis, China's emissions are as high as France's--which exaggerates how the average Chinese resident's lifestyle contributes to climate change.

The point of those paragraphs: Though international climate negotiations and environmental efforts more broadly are still determined largely on realist nation-state based lines, as this report shows liberal economic globalized philosophy directly contributes to the problem and no one seriously is challenging that at this level of power.

Though economically and environmentally attached at the metaphorical hip--it's just stats parsing to set up boundaries between nations when it comes to transnational shipping and country of origin versus country of consumption allocation of emissions--pretty much every nation refuses to recognize that trusting cooperation is the only solution to climate change. Continued blindered nationalism only hurts us all.

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More on Shipping:
Global Shipping Industry Could Use Existing Efficiency Measures to Cut Emissions & Increase Profits
Carbon Emissions in UK 49% Higher Than Acknowledged: New Report Claims
Danish Cargo Ship Fleet Cuts Fuel Use 30% By Going Half Speed
How Can We Reduce Oil Consumption & Still Ship Goods and Ourselves Around the Globe?

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