Technologies could reduce shipping pollution in Arctic by 60 percent or more

Jan 07, 2011 By Elizabeth Boyle

New research led by the University of Delaware evaluates the potential cost and effect of technologies aimed at reducing emissions from marine shipping, especially when targeting the Arctic.

The multi-university effort provides the first technology assessment to directly inform on shipping emissions and the sensitive region, which earned the focus of world leaders at the December 2010 United Nations (UNFCCC) in Cancun.

“Evidence of global warming is in no place more obvious than in the Arctic,” Arctic Council Chair Lene Esperson told UNFCCC attendees. “Shipping activity in the region is on the rise, including tourism and exploration activities.”

Taking up what Esperson called an “urgent common challenge,” the study, “An Assessment of Technologies for Reducing Regional Short-Lived Climate Forcers Emitted by Ships with Implications for Arctic Shipping,” was led by James J. Corbett, professor of marine science and policy at UD. He collaborated with colleagues at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Energy and Environmental Research Associates, in Pittsford, N.Y. The article was published in the second issue of the new journal Carbon Management.

The researchers looked at six black carbon emissions reductions technologies when used alone or in combination. Black carbon, or soot, is one of the most potent types of air pollution in diesel emissions from ships.

“It is known as a 'short-lived climate forcer,' meaning that it contributes to climate change but over much smaller time scales than carbon dioxide,” explained James J. Winebrake, coauthor and dean of Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Liberal Arts.

The team found that the most cost-effective strategy is a combination of technologies, which can reduce black carbon from ships by about 60 percent.

“This translates to avoiding emissions corresponding to some 9-70 million metric tons of CO2equivalent,” Corbett said. “In other words, the cost to achieve these reductions in CO2 equivalent terms is about US$15-30 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent. This compares competitively with other climate strategies in terms of cost.”

The tiny particles of carbon are especially impactful when emitted in or transported to the Arctic, where they absorb sunlight and contribute to the melting of snow and ice. Because ships operating in or near the Arctic release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change, control of in the Arctic could be especially important.

“Managing emissions from increased shipping activity within and near the Arctic may be part of a needed mitigation strategy,” Corbett said.

Among the first to use this research will be policy makers working to lessen shipping's contribution to climate change, as they need timely information on what management action options may achieve and what their costs may be. Industry can use this work to begin to focus on the expected costs, and the key factors that may reduce investment uncertainty. The new research also provides an analytical framework that policy makers and others can apply in the future and in other emissions control contexts besides shipping.

The current edition of Carbon Management, including this research article, will be available with open access until Feb. 28.

Corbett and Winebrake, experts on marine shipping emissions and goods movement sustainability, also recently collaborated on research that found increased shipping in the Arctic is likely to accelerate . They also contributed to the 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) report by the Arctic Council.

Explore further: US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fuel emissions from marine vessels remain a global concern

Sep 09, 2008

The forecast for clear skies and smooth sailing for oceanic vessels has been impeded by worldwide concerns of their significant contributions to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that impact the Earth's climate.

NOAA takes first broad look at soot from ships

Jul 09, 2008

Tugboats puff out more soot for the amount of fuel used than other commercial vessels, and large cargo ships emit more than twice as much soot as previously estimated, according to the first extensive study of commercial ...

Combating climate change by helping poorer countries

Nov 12, 2010

The effects of global climate change could be minimised by transferring ‘best available’ low carbon technologies from the rich to the poor nations, say researchers at the University of Bath.

Recommended for you

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

1 hour ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

Nov 21, 2014

Last week, China and the United States announced an ambitious climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions in both countries, a pledge that marks the first time that China has agreed to stop its growing emissions. ...

From hurricanes to drought, LatAm's volatile climate

Nov 21, 2014

Sixteen years ago, Teodoro Acuna Zavala lost nearly everything when Hurricane Mitch ravaged his fields, pouring 10 days of torrential rains on Central America and killing more than 9,000 people.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Jan 07, 2011
Here's an idea.

Everyone make what they need close to home, instead of outsourcing,etc.

Then you wouldn't need most of the shipping at all.

Think about this. We grow cotton in the U.S. Then we make the cotton fabric. Then we ship the fabric over seas so some slave can sew it. Then we ship it back.

"Globalization" is producing these wastes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.