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SHIP EMISSIONS

Cars aren’t the only vehicles that pollute — marine vessels, in fact, produce a large portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and this contribution can only be expected to increase. To call attention to the problem, the Center and a coalition of conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in October 2007 to set pollution limits for large ships under the Clean Air Act. The state of California petitioned the agency with a similar request in the same month. The Environmental Protection Agency continued to drag its feet on the issue, so in June 2010 the Center and allies sued the agency for its failure to address global warming pollution from ships, aircraft and non-road vehicles.

The global fleet of marine vessels releases almost 3 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide, an amount roughly comparable to the emissions of Canada. Because of their huge numbers and inefficient operating practices, marine vessels release a large volume of global warming pollutants, particularly CO 2, nitrous oxide, and black carbon (or soot). Despite their impact on the global climate, greenhouse gas emissions from ships aren’t currently regulated by the U.S. government. Neither are these emissions limited under the Kyoto Protocol or other international treaties that address global warming.

Global shipping activity has increased by 3 percent per year for the past three decades, and this rate of growth is projected to increase. If fuel use stays unchanged, shipping pollution will increase substantially, potentially doubling from 2002 levels by the year 2020 and tripling by 2030.

Marine vessels must be required to increase their fuel efficiency and use cleaner fuels. In addition, extending such requirements to all marine cargo vessels operating in U.S. waters — regardless of their country of origin — will help balance the burden of cleaning up shipping emissions while cutting global greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/Ian O'Hanlon