Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Forget about SUVs, if we’re really serious about reducing pollution, let’s focus on the superships :

As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.

Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as much fuel as small power stations.

But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use.

Thanks to decisions taken in London by the body that polices world shipping, this pollution could kill as many as a million more people in the coming decade – even though a simple change in the rules could stop it.

[ . . . ]

Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.

With an estimated 800million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.

Changing the emissions regulations on the shipping industry seems like a modest, commonsense step toward reducing air pollution. So why doesn’t it get more political attention? Why do hypothetical concerns about potential catastrophic problems always trump those that are causing massive deaths right now ?

With all the focus on man-made global warming, its easy to overlook the fact that man-made pollution is already killing millions of people every year. As Bjorn Lomborg has noted :

The single most important environmental problem in the world today is indoor air pollution, caused by poor people cooking and heating their homes with dung and cardboard. The UN estimates that such pollutions causes 2.8 million deaths annually—about the same as HIV/AIDS. The solution, however is not environmental measures but economic changes that let these people get rich enough to afford kerosene.

Imagine the effect we could have on pollution if we spent as much time, energy, and money on solutions that make a difference for other people’s lives rather than those that merely make us feel good about ourselves.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles