• Is shipping’s climate contribution underestimated?

    A new report suggests shipping’s contribution to global warming may have been underestimated, while a coalition of environmental NGOs has said cleaning up shipping’s pollutant emissions would save ‘tens of thousands of premature deaths’.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]The report was compiled by a group of international scientists using data collected from oil and shipping industries. Their report was commissioned by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the UN agency responsible for tackling the environmental impact of sea transport.

    The scientists say ships emitted 1.12 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2007, nearly three times the 400 million tonnes assumed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If correct, it would mean shipping’s contribution to global warming would be around twice that of aviation (at present).

    The publication of the study last month coincided with media reports in Denmark saying the shipping conglomerate AP Moller-Maersk, Denmark’s largest company, emits more greenhouse gases than the rest of the country combined. Its largest ship Emma Maersk is reported to consume 200 000 litres of fuel per day.

    Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental groups led by Friends of the Earth has submitted a study undertaken in America which says the use of cleaner marine fuel could prevent ‘tens of thousands’ of premature deaths from shipping air pollution each year.

    The US-based Clean Air Task Force has updated earlier estimates and now says the number of people dying from heart and lung disease as a result of under-regulated air pollution from international shipping will total over 80 000 by 2012, a figure that could be cut by half or more if the sulphur content of ship fuels were significantly cut.

    T&E policy officer João Vieira said: ‘It is a disgrace that thousands are dying needlessly as a result of the IMO’s intransigence. If the IMO fails to come up with a plan within the next few months, EU and other regions must do the job for them as continued waiting is simply not an option.’