If you really want to ease serious global warming pollution, forget about your car. The harm it does, even if relatively high polluting, is a pittance compared to cargo ships. Today’s cargo ships run on the dirtiest oil of all. It’s the dregs of the refining process. Only 15 of the largest ships produce as much pollution as all of the world’s 760 million cars—and there are around 90,000 cargo ships!
It is rapidly growing far worse. South Korea is building ever larger ships, and will soon have ones 450 meters long capable of carrying 22,000 shipping containers the size of semi truck vans. They have 3,693 new ships booked for the next three years, and these alone will produce as much pollution as another 29 billion cars. The devastating pollution of cargo ships will be increased nearly 350 times over the next three years—and this is the ship building of only one country!
So far, virtually nothing has been done to stem the destruction. And destruction it is, with about 60,000 US deaths a year and medical costs as high as $330 billion in heart and lung diseases lying at the feet of this industry’s pollution. Container ships have turned coastal air from pristine into possibly the world’s most polluted. Though the United States is implementing a 230-mile buffer zone around the nation, with Canada likely to follow suit soon, that does nothing for the oceans, nor does it help the land to any great extent, as the pollutants belched into the air travel around the world.
These cargo ships run on the waste from oil refining processes, which is, essentially, asphalt. They use it, of course, because it’s cheap. But cheap for them is purchased at the cost of our health and that of the earth.
Two of the pollutants released are sulphur and nitrogen oxides, which are responsible for both acid rain and ocean acidification. These are blamed for the rapidly increasing loss of both shellfish and ocean reefs, which are major signs of oceanic death.
Alternatives are discussed, such as sequestering some of the pollution, which could only cut the problem by around 10%. Changing to higher quality petroleum fuel has also been discussed, but that seems rather pointless. It might provide 30-40% less pollution, but in the face of more than 350 times growth over the next three years, that seems rather pointless. Nuclear power is also suggested, but we’ve seen its dangers in Fukushima.
What’s at risk? Just take a look at these photos by Klaus Leidorf, Aerial Photography:
In the end, the risk from cargo ship pollution is the existence of us all. The environment that supports all living creatures is being destroyed. When viewed like that, the convenience of all those cheap goods from around the world seems rather diminished, doesn’t it?
Tagged cargo ship climate change, cargo ship fuel, cargo ship global warming, cargo ship pollution, cargo ships, climate change, container ship fuel, container ship pollution, container ships, environment, global warming, trade growth