08 November 2007

Global Trade Kills

Earlier in the year we noted how carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are double those of aviation, yet are not addressed by the Kyoto Protocol or any other proposed European legislation. Today we learn that shipping, used to transport 90% of world trade, is responsible for an arguably even more lethal atmospheric cocktail:

Pollution from ships, in the form of tiny airborne particles, kills at least 60,000 people each year, says a new study. And unless action is taken quickly to address the problem – such as by switching to cleaner fuels – the death toll will climb, researchers warn. Premature deaths due to ultra-fine particles spewed out by ships will increase by 40% globally by 2012, the team predicts.

Tiny airborne particles [including various carbon particles, sulphur and nitrogen oxides] are linked to premature deaths worldwide, and are believed to cause heart and lung failures. The particles get into the lungs and are small enough to pass through tissues and enter the blood. They can then trigger inflammations which eventually cause the heat and lungs to fail. There is also some evidence that shipping emissions contain some of the carcinogenic particles found in cigarette smoke.

Emissions of all of these particles could be limited by using more refined fuels in the shipping industry, which typically is powered by diesel fuel.
The scientist who led the research comments, "We leave judgement of what to do and how fast to do it to the policy process. Our aim was to provide a robust estimate on a global scale so that policy makers would have evidence that human impacts are occurring and so they could decide if the evidence was enough to justify strong and immediate action."

Sounds like yet another instance of the misplaced concerns of many in the environmental lobby. Neighbourly concern surely dictates that swift international action [an oxymoron if ever there were one] be taken to force the shipping industry to clean up its act.Cardiopulmonary mortality attributed to ship pollution [New Scientist]