Not the Love Boat – Connecting respiratory health with the shipping industry and toxic fuel

April 26, 2019

Exempted from the Paris Agreement, the shipping industry is one of the fastest growing sources of climate pollution on the planet. Current projections indicate that the shipping sector will reach 17% of total global greenhouse gas totals by 2050 if it remains unregulated and fails to address this issue voluntarily. Today the sector is responsible for approximately 3% of global emissions, which are compounded by its use of heavy fuel oil-fuel and the resulting production of super-pollutants like black carbon.

Is there a human health concern in addition to the climate impacts of burning heavy fuel oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels? In January 2019,, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. Ryan Kennedy, released the results of a 2-year undercover air testing study on board four Carnival Corporation cruise ships. The investigation revealed that air quality on cruise ships can be worse than some of the world’s most polluted cities including Beijing, China and Santiago, Chile, earning media attention from CNN, US News & World Report, The Daily Mail in the UK, among dozens of other outlets.

Approximately 70% of ship emissions occur within 250 miles of land and can travel far inland. This means that millions of unsuspecting people are potentially being exposed to dangerous air pollution levels from ship exhaust, raising serious health concerns for coastal cities and port communities. In fact, studies have attributed over 60,000 premature deaths to ship exhaust exposures.

On Wednesday, April 24th, 2019, the Environmental Grantmakers Association, Health and Environmental Funders Network, Pisces Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation hosted a webcast briefing for funders to hear from the lead campaign organizations working on this issue and learn how this new information can create a nexus for climate action connecting threats to respiratory health in port communities and vessel passengers with cruise line industry’s use of one of the world’s most toxic and climate change accelerating fuels.

Please watch this webcast here, and see below for a written summary of content.