Azara Blog: Estimate of emissions from all the world's shipping

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Date published: 2007/10/19

The BBC says:

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from shipping are twice the level of aviation, one of the maritime industry's key bodies has said.

A report prepared by Intertanko, which represents the majority of the world's tanker operators, says emissions have risen sharply in the past six years.

Previous International Maritime Organisation estimates suggested levels were comparable with those of planes.

Some 90,000 ships from tankers to small freighters ply the world's oceans.

Intertanko says its figures are the most realistic estimation of the current levels of CO2 from ships.

Its estimate suggests that the world's shipping uses between 350 and 410 million tonnes of fuel each year, which equates to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

Intertanko says that growth in global trade coupled with ships burning more fuel to deliver freight faster has contributed significantly to the increase.

Dragos Routa, the technical director of Intertanko, told the BBC the figures were a work in progress but the levels of emissions had risen sharply.

While there are few accurate measures and even fewer restrictions on the amounts of carbon dioxide that ships can emit at present, governments in many parts of the world are considering a clampdown as part of their efforts to tackle global warming.

But Mr Routa suggested that the much greater tonnage carried by each vessel, compared with aircraft, meant that shipping was still a much greener form of transporting freight around the globe.

The fact that the total amount of emissions from shipping might or might not be twice the level of aviation is a red herring. What matters is the bang per buck, and whether sources of emissions are paying a carbon tax (which most forms of transport, including trains, do not). There is more global trade now so of course the emissions from shipping will have increased. And the BBC seems to be complaining that "ships burning more fuel to deliver freight faster has contributed significantly to the increase". Funnily enough the BBC never complains that fast trains like the TGV and Eurostar are "burning more fuel to deliver passengers faster". Funnily enough the chattering class (led by the BBC) thinks trains are some kind of sacrosanct form of transport and that all other forms of motorised transport are somehow evil. Of course all forms of transport (and indeed all carbon emitters) should pay a carbon tax, not just forms of transport that the chattering class randomly deems to be politically incorrect.

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