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Carnival Cruises emits ten times more sulphur oxide than all of Europe’s cars (ecohustler.com)
368 points by perfunctory 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 158 comments



It would be interesting to compare Carnival to the actual freight/crude vessels.

I have to imagine that all of that dwarfs carnival by a wide, wide margin.

But with flags of convenience, this is actually a semi-tough battle to fight, as they'll just reregister the ships somewhere else.

The low sulphur regulations coming into force in 2020 should help quite a bit in that these ships will have to burn cleaner fuel at the very least.


@smachiz, totally agree. With all the cruise and shipping companies this article feels like a political attack on Carnival. Wonder what happened if they ran the stats on Maersk who has the largest fleet of 700 ships in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_container_ship...


They did run the comparison between Carnival and their biggest competitor Royal Caribean (i'll call "RC"). RC was still a bad pollutant, producing 4x the pollution of all the cars in Europe, but by comparison, Carnival is pumping out over twice as much.

I actually think companies like Maersk are producing far less pollution than cruise ships because cruise ships are running engines mostly to produce electricity. Only a small portion of what they burn is for propulsion. Imagine the electricity it takes to run an entire city, it would be in the megawatts. For example, Carnival's mega-ships have the capacity for around 6,400 people. The ship is producing electricity for all those people, pools, waterslides, electric go-cart tracks, dance clubs, ~30 restaurants, hospital clinics, and the list goes on. Anything a city would have, the cruise ship has too.

The other big problem with cruise ships is that they produce just as much pollution while standing in port as they do on the ocean (because again they need to run engines to generate a city's worth of power). Some places like Alaska have recently passed laws that require cruise ships to modify their ships to plug into the city's power grid and not to run engines in port. This law is going into effect in 2020 I believe (only for Alaska). But most cruise ships have already complied and are capable of this. I have heard rumors that Italy is considering passing a similar law. The other benefit of this, aside from the environmental effects of it, is that money is now generated for the local city in the form of utility billing to the cruise ships. This stimulates local economies, which traditionally have been hurt by cruise ships more than benefiting from them.

Shipping companies really only run engines for propulsion. They have small crews and accommodations that aren't much different from a large fishing vessel. They can likely generate most their power from their propulsion engines, without the need to run auxiliary generators 24/7.

I am not saying that shipping companies are "clean", but I think they are dwarfed by the pollution created from cruise ships. So it makes sense to target the heavy hitters first.

Plus for an environmental group, it is easier to target a bad guy being an optional service like a cruise. Something people can easily choose not to partake in. It is a lot harder to boycott Maersk. Since almost everything sitting on your desk right now likely sat on a Maersk ship at one point in its existence.


> "Only a small portion of what they burn is for propulsion."

I'm a bit skeptical of this. Looking at the numbers for the Symphony of the Seas ship (current largest), the peak power requirements from all propulsion (3 x 20,000KW + 4 x 5,500KW = 82MW) is comparable to the peak power output of the ship (4 x 14,400KW + 2 x 19,200KW = 96MW.)

Of course I doubt the ship rarely, if ever, goes pedal to the metal with all thrusters at once, and I cannot say what it's typical energy generation looks like. So I don't have enough information to say you're wrong, but the numbers I do have make me skeptical.


Yup. The other number that came to mind was the alternative that would actually work on big ships - big nukes. US carriers are nuclear powered, but most of the power produced is NOT electricity, it can only be used for propulsion.

I'm sure cruise passengers are more wasteful than the average person at home or in an office, but the tremendous amount of power needed to drive a huge lump through the ocean at any reasonable pace dwarfs the pumps in the infinity pool and the blaring music and all the rest. And that's going to have to come from somewhere.


Slightly tangential, but a good opportunity to mention the NS Savannah, probably the closest we've ever come to nuclear cruise ships: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NS_Savannah


There were actually several other nuclear-powered commercial ships, none of which proved economical, though there's also the small problem that about 200 major cargo ships are lost at sea every decade. That's roughly the number of all present marine nuclear propulsion systems (within a factor of two).

The others were the German Otto Hahn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Hahn_(ship)), Japanese Mutsu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutsu_(nuclear_ship), and the Russian Sevmorput (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sevmorput). There is also a fleet of six Soviet/Russian icebreakers, still in service, the lone regime in which nonmilitary nuclear marine propulsion has proved viable.


local economies, which traditionally have been hurt by cruise ships

Why?


I don't necessarily agree with the statement above, but the reasoning is that cruise visitors don't stay in hotels or eat breakfast/dinner off the boat. So the boat brings a lot of people all at once that taxes the infrastructure and the only money they spend is on lunch.


About 10 years ago I visited Acapulco, just a few months after it appeared in the lists as one of the most dangerous cities in the world (after a lot of tourists were captured for ransom). The center (with beaches, markets, restaurants) was completely empty, as the US (the main tourist source) recommended the tourists to avoid the place, so cruise ships did not stop there anymore. The locals told us that they took a big financial hit because of that - as on average a cruise ship tourist spent around $100 per day on food, transport, attractions and souvenirs.


They spend tons of money on excursions, there is a cottage industry of tour guides and mini malls at every cruise port. To cater to short tours, snorkeling/beach/hiking trips, and shopping. This if anything cruise people get off the boat spend their money, and get back on without filling up hotels, etc.


These externalities are supposed to be captured by docking or mooring fees, but it's up to each jurisdiction admitting these vessels.


>RC was still a bad pollutant, producing 4x the pollution of all the cars in Europe, but by comparison, Carnival is pumping out over twice as much.

Why is this? Does Carnival have many more ships, or less efficient ships, or run their ships more often?


Of course there are far more freight vessels than cruise vessels, but I can imagine several valid reasons for targeting cruise vessels:

- cruise ships are marketed as luxury, and also have much higher profit margins than the shipping industry, so the argument that they can afford to switch to cleaner technologies is easier to make.

- cruise ships also typically dock much closer to cities than other ships. You probably won't see a large oil tanker sailing up a Norwegian fjord or through Venice's Giudecca Canal.


Cruise ships are an easier target due to public branding.


>With all the cruise and shipping companies this article feels like a political attack on Carnival.

Does everything have to be a conspiracy? Do you really think the small team at EcoHustler, who I had not heard of until this article, has a "political" agenda against Carnival? Is their analysis irrelevant because it didn't do a comparison against every other shipping company? Are we not allowed to point out that "this company is bad" without also stating, "but so are all these other companies?"

>Wonder what happened if they ran the stats on Maersk who has the largest fleet of 700 ships in the world.

Do you genuinely wonder that? I'll tell you, with zero research: Maersk is also really bad. What does that add to the discussion?


I'm no Carnival fan, they are terrible for the environment and don't seem understand the harm they cause. Example, once again fined just a few days ago: https://www.npr.org/2019/06/04/729622653/carnival-cruise-lin...

My issue is that I'd like to see the comparison to Maersk, not sure how 700+ ships compares to Carnival Corps !00+ cruise ships https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnival_Corporation_%26_plc. Article just points out how bad Carnival Corp is without painting a broader picture. You can certainly point out that a company is bad but how bad is it?


Ships & boats only make up 3% of transportation emissions in the United States: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-06/documents...

Does anyone have the numbers for other parts of the world?


That would measure only US transportation vessels between US ports, not imports or exports.

It would exclude Navy, Coastguard, fishing, pleasure vessels and I would assume cruise ships.

Sea transportion between ports is limited in the USA due to a law preventing non-US ships transporting between US ports.


[flagged]


> The other is a commercial shipping company through which a large portion of the world's goods is transported.

What's disingenuous is acting as if that statement matters at all when talking about large pollution sources. You're saying the ends justifies the means. I don't think most people would agree. Maybe we should let out all of the bank robbers who were robbing to get money in order to eat and survive, vs those who did it to buy nice cars and enrich themselves or something.


>You're saying the ends justifies the means. I don't think most people would agree.

The ends do justify the means. You don't think shipping food is more important than shipping cheap plastic toys from China? What an odd view.

>Maybe we should let out all of the bank robbers who were robbing to get money in order to eat and survive

I guess it might be news to you, but personal circumstances definitely are taken into account during sentencing in any nation state worth its salt.


> What's disingenuous is acting as if that statement matters at all when talking about large pollution sources.

Of course it does. People have choice when it comes to picking leisure activities.

Do you have choice when it comes to how stuff you buy is transported to you?


You can absolutely choose regional food over exotic imports. Sure, it gets harder to avoid imports when buying electronics, but that's a much smaller scale than food.


I'm not sure if you're aware, but American manufacturing has been decimated over the past several decades. Most stuff you buy these days is manufactured overseas and shipped to North America for assembly and/or sale.

What you seem to be advocating for is an almost complete cessation in consuming stuff, which is impossible to do without a big hit to one's standard of living.

Compared to all this, choosing a leisure activity that is fun, relaxing, and doesn't devastate the environment should be pretty fucking easy.


American manufacturing jobs have been decimated. American manufacturing is at or near historical highs in terms of actual output and value. America simply doesn't do much low-margin, low-end stuff anymore.

To use steel as an example, America still produces a HUGE amount of steel. But most is now specialty alloys (which requires more precision, control and ingredient purity) rather than bulk mild steel.


> Do you have choice when it comes to how stuff you buy is transported to you?

You can definitely choose how stuff is transported to you. One example is to purchase more locally sourced / produced goods.


Which is more damaging environmentally than shipped goods due to sheer efficiency of scale.


You could buy less, and more local, stuff.


> cultureless baby boomers

That's not fair. There's a lot more people on cruises than just baby boomers.


That doesn't change the substance of his objection, which is that leisure activities should quite obviously be held to a greater standard than general freight shipping. For instance, it's obvious that the environmental impact of backyard bonfires should be compared to the environmental impact of a comparable alternative activity, like a backyard charcoal BBQ. If you compared a backyard bonfire to controlled burns for forest management, then obviously the particulate emissions of the bonfire are going to seem inconsequential, because that's an inappropriate comparison.

Whether they're enjoyed by baby boomers or baby zoomers, the environmental impact of leisure cruises should plainly be compared to comparable leisure activities. If we compare flying to a tropical beach instead of taking a cruise ship to that same beach, how do the emissions stack up? My impression is that commercial airliners are substantially more efficient on a per passenger basis.


"If we compare flying to a tropical beach instead of taking a cruise ship to that same beach, how do the emissions stack up?"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_aviati...:

"Domestic, short distance, less than 463 km (250 nmi): 257 g/km CO2 or 259 g/km (14.7 oz/mile) CO2e, Domestic, long distance, greater than 463 km (250 nmi): 177 g/km CO2 or 178 g/km (10.1 oz/mile) CO2e, Long distance flights: 113 g/km CO2 or 114 g/km (6.5 oz/mile) CO2e"

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2006/dec/20/cruises.green:

"Climate Care, carbon offsetting company

"“According to our calculations, a cruiseliner such as Queen Mary 2 emits 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared with 0.257kg for a long-haul flight (even allowing for the further damage of emissions being produced in the upper atmosphere).”"

https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/ask-mr-green/which-better-...:

"The Queen Mary 2, for example, gets about 20.5 miles per gallon per passenger when traveling at its full speed (though at lower speeds it is considerably more efficient, getting around 45 passenger miles per gallon per passenger). An Airbus A380, in comparison, gets 74 miles per gallon per passenger; the Boeing 737 Max8 gets 110 miles per gallon per passenger."

https://grist.org/living/you-thought-planes-burned-a-lot-of-...:

"All that adds up to 0.40 kilograms of carbon being emitted per passenger per kilometer on your typical cruise ship, according to a 2008 study.

"The latest numbers from the EPA have it that air travel costs you (carboniferously speaking) between 0.17 and 0.25 kg of carbon per passenger mile. By my calculations, that is between 0.11 and 0.16 kg per passenger-kilometer, if we want to align this factoid with the cruise-ship stat above."

The bottom line? The people who report these numbers seem to have a problem between miles and kilometers. I'm guessing about a factor of 2 in favor of flying.


The assumption that baby boomers are "cultureless" or otherwise defective seems a bit suspect as well. Kind of what you would expect from useless lay-about millennials, though.


> these ships will have to burn cleaner fuel

The big freighters run on something pretty close to crude oil, it's basically unrefined. Are they really passing regulations requiring them to run on refined processed fuel? That will increase the cost of shipping dramatically. Not sure if the engines can even run on normal diesel.

https://news.ihsmarkit.com/press-release/energy/new-low-sulf...

Well, it appears they are. What will happen then to the high density waste oil from the refining process that is currently used for freighters? Without them burning it or existing as a market, the oil will still exist as a byproduct of refining. Will it just be dumped somewhere?

> researchers expect that on-board ship scrubbers, devices that clear harmful pollutants from exhaust gas, will be the primary compliance path for ships, which could continue to burn higher-sulfur fuels

This is probably the only option. Or switching to reactors.


The sulphur can be removed, along with all the other junk that comes along with crude oil directly from a well. Long-chain molecules can be "cracked" to short ones. The keyword is "heavy sour crude".


Anything shipped from overseas is an exercise in exporting your pollution.

It's okay to dump 100's of times the amount of pollution into the environment compared to domestic manufacturing as long as it 1) happens in Asia, Afria, or South America, and 2) improves corporate margins.


Does it matter how the ship is flagged? I could imagine solutions like, "If you dock in Europe and your ship is out of compliance, you must pay $X in fines." You can tune $X to whatever is needed to cover the calculated negative externalities.


This is the way it is in several Europen cities (if not all). The cruise ships burn very pollutingly fuels while in "international waters" but when they enter a port they are required to use cleaner fuel. Those regulations are there.

But nothing regulates what they do in international waters.


"All ships shall keep a record of which fuels they have burned. Each time a ship docks in a European port, the log shall be submitted to the customs enforcement unit at that port. The enforcement unit shall tally the amount of dirty fuel burned since the ship last docked in Europe.

"A ship that has burned X dirty fuel shall be charged $Y Euros per liter burned. If a ship is found to have created fraudulent logs, it shall be charged $Y*10, or seized. There is a reward for reporting such fraud leading to seizure equal to 10% of the forfeiture."

Or something like that. As long as the penalty is financially meaningful compared to the income of the ship's engineer, you would quickly start to have trouble getting away with using such fuel.


Couldn't they be required to turn over logs of fuel (type? uncertain how it works) use along with some form of inspections?


By definition the port of arrival has no jurisdiction on what the ship does in international waters.


No, but they're also under no obligation to allow the ship to dock. Any ability to enforce standards ultimately derives from this option.


You could ban them from having any dirty fuel in their tanks at all.


The ban would be applied by the country where they are registered - the flag of convenience. These are already usually poorer countries that offer lax regulations in exchange for the registration fees.

The problem would be that if one country enacted a ban, all the ships registered there would just switch to some other country without the ban (or that usually skipped that inspection), and the original country would lose out on a bunch of much-needed cash.

It might be more effective to tax the dirty fuel at the source, so that it becomes uneconomical to the ship operators to use the dirty fuel in the first place.


Of course, such a regulation should at least be Europe-wide and apply when the ship is in your harbour (or territorial waters). Taking a detour to refuel elsewhere takes time. I am unsure how you would check for it, though. Conversely, I have no idea how taxing fuel at the source could ever work, since that source can easily be in countries you have no control over.


Could ports regulate what fuel the ship is carrying, even if it's not burning that fuel while in port? For instance, if a cruise ship is burning clean fuel because it's near port, but is carrying a great deal of dirty fuel for use when it gets back into international waters, could the port fine the operators of that ship for merely possessing the dirty fuel?


Now all we have to do is convince acid rain to stop at national borders.


Yes, you can do that, and countries do. Ships will burn cleaner fuels when they are in territorial waters for this reason. The problem is they're still doing environmental damage out in international waters.

What you need to do is put the foot down and prevent flags of convenience (or more specifically, those that fail to meet environmental standards) from docking at your ports at all. Which I'm not sure is permissible under maritime laws.

(or maybe there is some dodge like preventing the ship from "carrying hazmat" which you define as bunker fuel, or ban ships from having soot in their stacks that has sulfur deposits, or so on...)


Yes, but Barcelona (where I live) would not do anything that could hinder tourist money. As an example, almost no stores are allowed to be open on Sundays by law. But they made an exception close to the port because enough tourists get off the boats for a day or 2 during the weekend and want to shop.

Its a hard battle to "force" any of these cruise lines or shipping for that matter, to change. It would have to be a EU law, etc etc, but thats 5+ (probably 10+) years to get passed.


It doesn't matter at all where they are flagged. They still have to comply with local regulations everywhere they operate. The US just fined Carnival $20M for dumping pollution in the Bahamas, and threatened to ban them from all US ports. It's a slap on the wrist, but it's one small example of how they can be punished regardless of where they're flagged.


"Does it matter how the ship is flagged?" - Probably not for large fleets, see [0] for examples of how this might be applied to the 2020 change.

Your ship may be registered to a tiny little island that won't enforce any regulation, but there's a limited number of markets to underwrite the insurance you need, and you'll want to dock at major sea ports.

[0] https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-shipping-fuel-sulphur/new-...


The newest cargo ships and tankers that operate in Western Europe aren't really the problem.

Cruiseships have been ignored for a long time because tourism=money.


This could be done through the Paris MOU yes. The term is "Port State Control" and the way it works is that when you get to a Port, the Port State, not your Flag State has a say in whether you can enter and leave.

As originally conceived the Paris MOU was about labour standards. European ports didn't like the fact that "Flags of Convenience" (legally, "Open Register" countries, where you can register a ship without any relationship to that country) were allowing ships in their register to have crew that weren't meeting European labour standards. Long working hours, poor pay, no healthcare and so on.

But by coincidence, as the meeting to sign the MOU was starting a terrible accident happened. Suddenly the headlines were about this nasty shipping accident, and you've got a bunch of people in Paris negotiating a new international agreement, so... today the Paris MOU is very interested in safety, with worker rights being a subsidiary consideration (after all if you're at the end of your fourth 16 hour shift this week you're probably not terribly safe if you're even still awake) but it also created this idea of Port State Control now seen in similar institutions around the world.

The US already de facto exercises Port State Control, and has laws which effectively bar foreign ships from doing a lot of stuff in US territory anyway - it could make a pollution regulation today if it cared, which obviously at least the Trump administration does not. But PSC wasn't really a thing anywhere else before the Paris MOU.


That would just incentivize ships to not dock in EU countries. For freight this might be an issue but for leisure cruises not so much.


Something that blew my mind was learning that (depending on oil prices of course), a container ship can burn through up to a quarter million dollars worth of fuel on a single transpacific voyage.


Let's run the numbers... a typical container cargo ship might be say 20,000 TEU and use apx 300 tons of fuel per day. With trans-pacific voyage of 12,000km at 20 o 24 knots (apx 40kph), we're looking at voyage times of 12.5 days -- let's add a bit of slop and say 15 days. This totals to 300 * 15 = 4500 tons of fuel, or @ $550/ton => $2,475,000k for fuel costs. So more like $2.5mil per voyage (not $250k).

20,000 TEU's (or apx 10,000 "large" containers as hauled by a truck or train car). At apx 15 tons per container, that's 150,000 tons of cargo. So cargo ships use apx 30kg of fuel per ton of cargo (or $16.50 per ton of cargo).

So how much fuel used is to move 1kg of cargo across the Pacific ocean (12,000 km) by ship? It works out to be about 30cc (1 fluid ounces or 2 tablespoons) or $0.0165 (or €0.015) of fuel to transport 1 kg of cargo across the pacific. An iphone (box and all) weighs just 200g, so it would cost 1/3rd of a penny of fuel to move across the pacific by ship (about a teaspoon).

That seems pretty damn efficient to me. I suspect that many people don't realize just how freaking massive modern cargo ships are. To put it into perspective, they are often bigger than the largest modern aircraft carriers and multiple times larger than WW2 era aircraft carriers/battleships.


Ah you're right, I guess I was thinking of Transatlantic, which is a shorter voyage with smaller vessels.


That's really cheap fuel cost for shipping a container ship's worth of iphones.


That sounds like a rounding error in comparison to the value of cargo being hauled. I would have expected significantly more.


Keep in mind that the latest generation of cargo ships can carry 20000 containers.


> I have to imagine that all of that dwarfs carnival by a wide, wide margin.

Well, yeah it has to. The amount of freight vessels dwarfs cruise lines by multiple orders of magnitude. However, freight performs a useful, nay, critical service.


Partially true. It could probably be reduced a lot if we ordered less gadgets over the internet.


Sounds bad - but is this a fair comparison?

Each cruise ship takes thousands of people all year round, who otherwise would go on holiday somewhere else (probably somewhere far away given the cost of a cruise). You need to do a total comparison of the pollution emitted by the cruise-style holidays vs going on long-haul holidays elsewhere and sum that up to see whether Carnival are really causing 10x more environmental problems than European cars.

I suspect they are but would rather see more valid comparisons that are harder to refute as the headline.


when I first heard the nwes a couple week ago[1] I was thinking on the same line at the beginning: need to normalize per person, per mile, per year or something, it's impossible to get those number.

and yet, they are normalized per year. the number are outrageous even normalized per city https://altreconomia.it/app/uploads/2019/06/Schermata-2019-0...

and the situation only gets worse because when out in international water they use a worse fuel for their engines.

[1] https://altreconomia.it/navi-crociera-inquinamento-auto/


If you read the article, you quickly discover it's not a fair comparison at all, because the headline itself is grossly misleading.


The article only talks about sulphur which is a small part of emissions - how do they compare in other pollutants? Since it hasn't been mentioned, I bet they do much better...


I'm curious whether luxury/recreational users of bunker fuel like cruise ships will receive more scrutiny and legislation than cargo and tanker ships. It's easy to scoff at the cruise industry and at people who go on cruises as environmentally insensitive, harder to bring about an increase in shipping costs.

Also, it's 10x the SOx, not 10x the CO2. Here's the source publication, which also analyzes NOx and PM, with a bit of CO2 data mixed in:

https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/publicat...

(As you might guess, the source article is not unbiased...)


According to USA today (https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2018/01/22/creat...), scientists want to spray Sulfur oxide into the atmosphere to stop global warming, so all I'm taking from this article is that we need to cruise more?


Whenever an article or person says "scientists want to..." or "scientists say..." it usually means that somewhere there is a team who has written a paper with that opinion, and that it is nowhere close to a consensus opinion. I'm quite sure there are many other scientists who will say doing so would be disastrous.

So, in short, try not to be swayed too much by what one researcher says, as filtered through the attention grabbing filter of a lay newspaper.


So as someone trained in the sciences, I'm well aware of this. The fact is that sulphur oxide is not a contributor to global warming, and I wanted to post an accessible article expressing this fact for those who are swayed by similar articles, like the one posted


As a scientist you will be aware that the devil is the in the detail. SO2 contributes to aerosol formation which can either warm (through absorption of solar radiation on dark particles) or cool (from forming cloud droplets and reflecting radiation) the atmosphere. SO2 emissions at ground level are usually classified as indirect contributors of warming

The article you posted talked about SO2 in the stratosphere - where cloud formation occurs. Cruise ships typically operate at sea level.


Does it pollute in the sense that it damage ecosystems, introduces toxic material into food supplies? Microsplastics, for example, don't cause global warming, but they pollute and harm aquatic life. The topic of "global warming" was introduced exclusively in the comments, and now I fear we'll go down a rabbit hole of arguing about something that we think is on-topic but is actually a tangential-at-best point that was never made by the author.


In this case, a small scale experiment is being planned: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/as-planet-warms-scientists...


Yeah, I usually interpret headlines like that as ultimately stemming from a press release from some lab. It’s a really sad commentary on the state of current journalism.


I'm guessing there is a big difference between spraying Sulfor _Dioxide_ into the stratosphere and ejecting Sulfor _Oxide_ from boats at sea-level.


Sulfur oxide broadly refers to any combination of Sulphur and Oxygen, of which Sulphur dioxide is a component. The article conveniently left out what exactly is being claimed to be emitted.

But, sulphur oxide is not the name of any chemical in particular, and obviously the gases have different properties. Sulfur monoxide, for example, is not stable and decomposes into various other gases


Before I clicked on that link I was worried it was another one about how we should be the ones in action to cool down the planet, but I'm glad to see that it talks down on doing that, and also stays neutral.

"Polluting", meaning adding non-existing gas to the air, to combat pollution seems completely off to me. In so many cases, people talk about how a simple action can solve problems and yet so many times, people underestimate the complexity of the situation.

Tax laws have to be a great example of this, where changes leave loopholes and people are smart enough to get around them. I'm sure people won't like that comparison, but it almost seems like the atmosphere is more complex than tax laws, and simple solutions wouldn't work there either.

I don't know where these stories come from, or how much the media is taking studies and framing them in their own way, but I can't see how spraying sulfur dioxide to artificially cool the planet is in any way a good idea.


IQ2US debate series did an episode on the merits of looking into Geo-Solar Engineering. Highly recommend.

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/engineering-so...

Long story short: down low, its bad. up high, it can reflect energy. Also: politics are complicated.


It’s the same issue as with ozone. It’s something you want in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Above 18.5km altitude but don’t quote me on that.


And this, or some means of capturing C02 with solar powered flyers is the only way we have, short of some massive tech break through, of reversing global warming. I'd personally prefer capturing CO2, breaking it into oxygen and carbon, then releasing the O2, and dropping the carbon off at a base for industrial reuse. But, whatever works.


Where are you getting this fanciful notion of CO2 capture with solar powered flyers? That sounds very expensive and I'm highly skeptical. Are you aware of the energetics needed to split CO2 into oxygen and carbon, btw? It's massively expensive to do without a plant, which we are systematically destroying in jungles across the world.


No one thought many things were possible until they were. But we can keep hoping we reduce our fossil fuel use instead.


Personally, I’m in favor of CO2-eating unicorns, but that doesn’t make actual solutions worthless.


It would be easy to fix this with regulation like European Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) does.

Installing scrubbers and cleaner fuel or moving into LNG are options. They add only little to the price of the ship.


The article says "Emits more pollution than all of Europe's Cars", which is a bit of a garbage claim, because obviously all of the CO2 is coming from the cars.


Sadly, it’s not obvious at all. A few years ago, there was an article like this about the 16 most polluting freighters. Ever since then, I have seen the “fact” that ships emit far more CO2 than all cars put together repeated over and over again.


> "obviously all of the CO2 is coming from the cars."

Wait, how do ships eliminate their CO2 emissions?

Re:

> "A ship, burning 1 litre of bunker oil produces about as much CO2 as a car burning 1 litre of gasoline"

If burning bunker oil produces CO2, as I would expect it does, then obviously all of the CO2 is not coming from cars.

I understand making 'broadly true but strictly speaking flat wrong' generalized statements, but to do that in the same breath as criticizing somebody for making "garbage claims" seems... I don't know, worthy of note I guess.


A ship, burning 1 litre of bunker oil produces about as much CO2 as a car burning 1 litre of gasoline, but tens of thousands of times more NO2 and SO2.


Look for "Marine Cloud Brightening" and "ship tracks". Dirty fuels contribute to low cloud formation -- these are known to partially mitigate warming effects.

The opportunity is to design a jet to spray salt water off the back of cargo ships to optimize marine cloud formation/brightening around the world. This is one of the most palatable geoengineering solutions out there.

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsta.201...


As a software engineer I am really scared of all these geo-engineering solutions. There is no integration environment to test them.


"We'll test it in production."


#yolo it you mean? I think we only have one livable planet atm


Keep in mind that you could walk to England from the Netherlands 8,000 years ago. The climate will be changing, regardless of mankind. Should we allow it to or should we explore interventions in the feedback loops, towards climate stability?


I am not sure I understand your point.


My position is that we should be developing the science and technology to stabilize the climate, since drastic climate change is inevitable, with or without human folly.


For the long term I would agree. But in the short term, I think it's way to risky to rely on non-existent/unproven technologies to solve the current climate crisis. We simply don't have time for experiments.


It seems to me that the alternative to relying on experimental sci/tech is relying on a functional, far-sighted political process or mass individual behavior change.


It's too bad they can't be nuclear powered.


Even if companies had to hire teams of government employees to handle/run the reactors, this still would be an excellent idea. It's a shame it will never happen.


It could given the proper legislation and strict safety protocols. The costs would be offset by taxing these polluting fossil ships.


Cruise ship manufacturers should do more, but I'd like to see the emissions comparison of those thousands of customers flying to their destinations, then taking small vehicles to reach final destinations.


People fly to cruises so frequently that it is part of a the package system.


Cars aren't going to get you across the atlantic. And planes tend to be more efficient overall than cars in long hauls efficiency wise, both in people carried, and overall efficiency/emissions. Those turbofans are much more efficient at approaching the carnot limit than your small car engine is. Scale matters.


How does this rank in the grand scheme of greenhouse gases? Not that it doesn't still matter, but efforts should be focused on climate change as a whole, not a single cherry-picked gas.


In terms of GHGs, cars dwarf cruise ship traffic.

In terms of SO2 and NO2 pollutants, cars burn very clean fuel, very efficiently, with a catalytic converter to scrub their exhaust. Ships run on shitty bunker oil, which is just one step above combustible sludge on the purity scale... And aren't equipped with catalytic converters.

The thing is, even if you legislate that ships can't run on bunker oil in your territorial waters, they'll just run on it while at sea, and switch to a legislated fuel when they dock.


Surely an entity such as the EU could go so far as to ban the sale of bunker oil to passenger cruise lines with offices in the EU, or something to that effect?


Or just ban companies that use it from operating in the EU


How does what Carnival do with sulfur compare with (i) the rest of shipping, (ii) the rest of human activity, and (iii) volcanoes????


Look up the EU Sulphur Directive 2012/33/EU please before writing such rubbish about European waters.


Don't sulfur oxides act to increase the Earth's albedo and decrease global warming?


If we really meant it with climate policies, cruise ships and private jets would be banned immediately.


I oppose banning anything... We just need to take the externalities (costs incured on the environment/population/other stake holders that are currently not included) into account and tax products/services accordingly.

That way, you both (1) reduce the environmental impact, and (2) encourage development of newer, cleaner technologies.


Which is tricky with shipping (cruises or otherwise), because they will often pick a flag of convenience (i.e. somewhere without the taxes).

You could add higher port fees, but how is that encouraging better technology? If anything it will just encourage ships/cruise lines to dock nearby and ship goods/people over land/air.

Taxes are fine if a business cannot float between countries. In this case the business can literally float between countries, and they'll avoid the taxes.


> Taxes are fine if a business cannot float between countries

No, you just need to drop the idea of free trade. Big economies (in particular, the US and EU) are big enough to enforce their standards globally. Serving EU customers? Comply with GDPR. Want to do business in USD? Comply with US banking regulations. Same could be done for shipping (and, I wish, tax avoidance & other environmental standards).


You'll have to deal with companies that spent considerable effort exploiting those externalities and then covering it up: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/business/carnival-cruise-...

Coincidentally the same company...


GDPR-style penalties (i.e. 10% of global revenue) + jail time for executives. The problem will solve itself...


Taxing them out of existence isn’t any different from banning them.


The general idea is that if you tax or price in the cost of doing the bad thing, these companies will try to optimize those costs down for the good of their shareholders, which would be a win-win.

In the real world, you'll probably have a lot of cover up of this sort of thing, as the companies would find it cheaper just to not report they dumped pollution into the environment than to report it and have to pay for it. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/04/business/carnival-cruise-...


I don't disagree that there are some people who want to tax things out of existence but the purpose of taxes like this should be to in good-faith accurately measure the real cost of these externalities and price them accordingly.

The problem we're facing is that there's no clear consensus on what that cost is.


Taxing them to recoup carbon emissions would only reduce air travel, not eliminate all carriers.

Say that it gets 5x or 10x more expensive, there would still be flights, just far less common. And maybe then something like biokerosene becomes cost effective, driving down costs more.


Just want to throw it out there that your typical passenger airline operates at a 2.5% margin. Freight airlines are even less. That multiplayer is going directly to consumers.

Nobody wants a world where we're paying $50 to ship a package, $1000 for a short flight, or their grocery bill to double since transportation is most of the cost.


The point of carbon taxes is that it captures externalities. To use some real numbers, instead of "$50 a package"; a fully capturing carbon tax on gasoline would raise its cost between $1-$3 a gallon.

People would scream, but the point is that WE'RE ALREADY PAYING $1-$3 a gallon for our CO2. It's just that it's not the driver that's paying, it's people in areas vulnerable to climate change and future generations.


I'm not saying we don't pay for it, but discouraging consumption by taxing usage directly at the pump or indirectly at the drill will end up doing more harm than good for our economy.


Having Florida sink into the ocean will do more harm to our economy than paying a couple dollars more at the pump.


Sounds small when it's the price of a single fill up but $3/gallon would cost US drivers about $500 billion annually and that's before the second order effects of making basically every single good and service more expensive along with it.

I mean losing Florida outright would cost $1 trillion annually so you got me there. As long as we keep half of Florida we're probably good though.

Let that sink in. $3/gallon is about the same as losing the entirety of Ohio. There's a reason we fight wars over this stuff. I desperately want to be better to our environment but these kinds of 'simple solutions' can't possibly work in isolation. Reducing consumption sounds nice until you remember all the people whose lives depend on that consumption to live.


It's not a $500 billion loss.

That $500 billion would be spent on something (consumer rebate, carbon sequestration, debt repayment, something). And government spending has second order effects too, estimated at about 1.75x for direct consumer rebates, less for anything else. So it's possible that the carbon tax would have a net positive on the economy.

Even if it isn't a net positive by itself, the net effect will be a LOT less than $500B.


A world where we have cheap shipping/flights but pay the same excessive total or more elsewhere to deal with the externalities isnt better, it is just shifting the misery around.


I don't disagree at all but shifting the costs of these externalities to individuals who really have no power doesn't really accomplish anything and is basically the definition of regressive. Telling someone who was living paycheck to paycheck before the change that their cost of living doubled and they should think of the environment is insane.

So yes. Please shift the misery.


We are already shifting the misery to people have no control of it, that's what an externality is.

First, most carbon taxes I have seen proposed are revenue neutral, and give the money back to those with lower incomes or provide lower carbon options to people like transit.

Though vehicle access and use has climbed in recent years in places like Southern California, it's not as though a carbon tax is an unavoidable expense, people always have other options.

A doubling of the cost of living is just so far outside of the plausible realm as to be ridiculous. A $3/gallon gas tax is way higher than any carbon tax I've seen proposed, but even if the economy didn't adapt to it and optimize a ton, that's not enough for a doubling of the cost of living.

The key is that we must change behavior, and change our carbon use. It's not enough to say "if we do this bad it will hurt this small group of people," we must say that and show how to mitigate that harm or show that it's greater harm than our current course of action. The status quo is not justified as a default option.


A proper carbon tax would capture the externalities. If that results in a cost of $50 to ship a package, that just means we’re paying $50 now, but most of that cost is borne by other people who get no say.


Nobody wants a world that is completely destroyed by poor ecological decisions either, but compromises have to be made one way or the other.


    > We just need to take the externalities [...] and tax [...] accordingly.
That would be nice if geopolitics and economics worked like clockwork and were thus amenable to simple "rule-changes", but the fact is there are populations for whom tax-evasion is an art-form.

Not everything can be made to "play-nice" with free-markets.


I prefer this approach as well. We shouldn’t ban anything but instead tax pollution and other externalities accordingly (high taxation level). This way solution can appear slowly, without outright banning whole industries. The principle being, you can do whatever as long as you don’t affect others.


>I oppose banning anything

Why?


It's literally oppression. I want to make decisions on my own, not someone else making them for me. The only things that are justifiably banned are those that negatively impact others without their consensus (and even there, I disagree with most governments - e.g. I think euthanasia should be legal and capital punishment not).

Obviously you could make the same argument about the environment ("you're killing nature without its consent") but as long as we (the human civilisation) cannot live in a zero-impact manner, it shouldn't be nobody else's choice on how I polute the environment (i.e. as long as you drive a car, I can fly in a private jet, provided that environmental costs are accounted for proportionally)


Why isn’t it “oppression” to poison the air that someone needs to breathe?


It is, certainly, but unless you want the human civilisation revert back to stone age, there's no way around it. We can only minimize the impact right now (e.g. with more taxation that's better aligned with actual externalities), and improve technology to reach that goal in the future (again, taxation/subsidies but in the limit they're essentially the same).


The pollution that the article is talking about, sulfur dioxide, isn't a component of climate change and actually tends to cool the Earth down. The amount of carbon dioxide emitted by cruise ships is far lower than that emitted by cars and in terms of carbon emissions per kilometer traveled per passenger cruise ships are pretty clean compared to other forms of transportation.


In terms of CO2, aviation accounts for roughly 2% of global man-made emissions. This is not nothing, but eliminating it would not be the same as eliminating all of its emissions. Shipping and travel done via aviation would simply shift to land and water based options, which would in turn increase their emissions. It would also have quit an impact on the infrastructure of modern civilization and economy. Banned overnight would result in mass disruption and probably deaths due to inability to shift material resources quickly. Alternative would take years to upgrade the infrastructure and logistics needed to truly replace aviation.

I'm not saying we shouldn't consider and focus on better efficiency and other technology in the aviation sector, but there are lower hanging fruits. It would be much more viable in the short term to fractionally decrease, say, a fraction of industrial emissions equivalent to all of aviation emissions. Or improve carbon sequestration technology.


Cruise ships are almost certainly cleaner than commercial air travel as a whole. It takes a lot less energy to move a big ship with 4000 people sideways on water at 50 MPH than to lift people into the sky in 20 groups of 200 at 600 MPH. And these are close to replacement goods (less cruises = more airplanes).

The main stat on this article is dumb because cars don't really emit sulphur oxide, so obviously something that emits some will be a huge multiplier.

EDIT: This is almost certainly wrong, as other comments have pointed out to me. Not deleting it for posterity's sake.


  Cruise ships are almost certainly
  cleaner than commercial air travel
  as a whole.
Not according to [1] and [2] - after all, the "Queen Mary 2" is 29 tonnes per passenger whereas the A380 is less than 1 tonne per passenger even with a full fuel load.

[1] https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/ask-mr-green/which-better-... [2] https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2006/dec/20/cruises.green


On the other hand, airplanes travel in the upper atmosphere, where pollution is supposedly able to do more damage[1]:

> However, in the cases of high-altitude airliners which frequently fly near or in the stratosphere, non-CO2 altitude-sensitive effects may increase the total impact on anthropogenic (human-made) climate change significantly.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_aviati...


> It takes a lot less energy to move a big ship with 4000 people sideways on water at 50 MPH than to lift people into the sky in 20 groups of 200 at 600 MPH.

In terms of CO2: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/739287/Flying-three-times...


That is genuinely surprising and nasty. To be that much less efficient given the constraints, cruise ships must be using terrifyingly dirty fuel.


As a side-note, please be careful to distinguish between local pollution from dirty fuel (SOx emissions, particulates), and global pollution from _carbon emissions_. They are two wildly different things, and often there is a big trade-off where cutting one raises the other (c.f. the VW scandal).

Cruise ships, as it happens, are horrible on both measures.


They are very large and heavy (much more weight per passenger), there’s additional drag and resistance, not to mention time, which I think accounts for some of the energy waste.

In short, that spending a few hours on a thin metal aerodynamic cigar is more energy effective than a week spent on a bulky floating city doesn’t surprise me.


That's an understatement. If you saw this "fuel" you'd call it tar. They have to heat it with steam just to get it pumped to the engines.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_oil#Bunker_fuel


Voyager-class cruise ship: 12.8-passenger-miles per gallon

Boeing 747-400: 91 passenger-miles per gallon

Of course passenger aircraft are tightly packed and cruise ships have large cabins, swimming pools, etc.

Both numbers from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transport


We could also just make them a lot cleaner too :), it doesn't have to be a binary choice.


There is no reason to ban them. Charge the emissions to influence behaviour and investments. We don't know what innovations can come out of this if enough pressure is applied.


Is the sulphur pollution they're talking about here (SOx) a climate change contributor, or is this concern about other health risks?


Yeah, it's something that gives me pause about political action against global warming: how many people who want such political action are willing to never ride a plane or a cruise ship ever again? I think few have processed that a real effort to address this problem would involve real personal sacrifice, it can't be conveniently resolved just by building a ton of solar panels and windmills.


Cruise ships contribute almost nothing to global warming. There may be other reasons to ban them, but global warming isn't one of them.


The contribution of cruise ships to climate change is negligible.


Carnival emits 10x the amount of one specific pollutant.

This is a seriously and intentionally misleading headline. Not to diminish the problem, which absolutely should be addressed, but the headline is journalistic malpractice.


I think these kinds of headlines are very damaging to the perception of science. They often erase trust and make the public feel disengaged.


I have this suspicion that it’s intentional. If I were trying to sow doubt about climate change, this sort of article is exactly what I’d push.


The devil is, as always, in the detail. Here, the 'air pollution' is oxides of sulphur, which are a consequence of the use of nearly regulation free dirty bunker fuel by ships.

If the measurement is CO2, or other pollutants, it's almost certainly less bad comparatively (though in no way clean).


Interestingly I believe the sulphur oxide actually acts to decrease global warming so ...




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