Ship Emissions Raise Mortality in China

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Certainly, there was a boom in the shipping industry, especially in China and many other countries in East Asia.  However, this has aggravated the extent of air pollution in these countries.  Scientists informed that air pollution has been the reason for thousands of deaths in this region which has 8 out of the world’s largest container ports.

Generally, the ship traffic pollution is overlooked when compared with cars and factories. However, it must be noted that ship traffic has more than doubled in East Asia since 2005. Naturally, this business growth  has a more substantial cause for pollution.

A recent study conducted by China has estimated that sulfur dioxide, which generates acid rain, and other pollution from ships caused an estimated 24,000 premature deaths a year in East Asia, mainly from heart and lung diseases and cancer.

As per this study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change based on satellite data tracking almost 19,000 vessels, 75% of deaths were in China and others mainly in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea.  As compared to the total over a million deaths caused by air pollution in China, this figure is tiny.  The count of deaths may be from 14500 to 37500.

One of the authors at Duke University in the USA indicated that the shipping levels in East Asia were not that large until a few years ago.  Currently, with consistent growth, they are huge.

China has thousands of protests every year sparked by concerns about environmental degradation.  China, where Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port, will start demanding cleaner fuels for ships in coastal regions from 2019.

As regards North America and parts of Europe, they require that ships operating close to land use more costly, less polluting fuel with a sulfur content below 0.1 percent.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects the North American controls will prevent 14,000 premature deaths a year by 2020.

U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) plans to cut the sulfur limit for ships’ fuel to 0.5 percent from 2020 from a current 3.5 percent.

However, these curbs could be delayed to 2025 if member states decide that refineries are unable to adapt in time.  Natasha Brown, an IMO spokeswoman in London, said a decision is due in October.

The study also established that emissions of carbon dioxide, the main man-made greenhouse gas, from shipping off East Asia had doubled in less than a decade to 16 percent of the global total from the industry in 2013.

Other air pollutants from ships have a cooling effect on global climate by reflecting sunlight into space.  The cooling is likely to predominate for about another eight years before warming takes over, it said.

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Source: Reuters

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