Most oceangoing ships use high-sulfur fuels, which emit particles that can cause lung and heart disease and harm the environment. Without scientific, peer-reviewed analysis that addresses all aspects of these important issues, policy makers and advocates for both industry and environment face difficulty in identifying, evaluating, and agreeing on the best alternatives to reduce these impacts.
Research conducted by Associate Professor of Marine Policy James Corbett is helping change that.
His research into the energy and environmental dimensions of freight transportation is getting noticed in both scholarly and policy contexts. Corbett was lead author of a an article in Environmental Science & Technology in November 2007 that quickly became one of the most-accessed articles on the journal’s web site last year.
The article, “Mortality from Ship Emissions: A Global Assessment,” marked the first time that researchers estimated the effects of shipping emissions globally. It reported findings that shipping-related emissions are responsible for approximately 60,000 cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths annually.
“We had hoped that this work would be of relevant interest to the policy makers and the environmental science community,” said Corbett, who co-led the study with Rochester Institute of Technology researcher James Winebrake, “and to realize that in the last two months of 2007 the relevance and interest was great enough that it became one of the top papers is an honor.”
Corbett, of the University of Delaware’s College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES), got even more good news about his Environmental Science & Technology article earlier this month. He learned from those involved with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that the group consulted his article leading up to its April decision to mitigate impacts of high-sulfur fuel. The IMO is the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships.
“The decisions that the article helped inform are really important,” Corbett said, explaining that the IMO agreed to a cleaner marine fuel standard that will likely reduce the health impacts of shipping emissions.
In the meantime, Corbett continues to provide scientific, peer-reviewed analyses that engage the policy decision process. A series of articles recently published and in press provides a total fuel emissions analysis. One article published in The Journal of Air & Waste Management analyzes how cleaner fuels decrease sulfur emissions but also looks at whether increased refining to produce those cleaner fuels creates more greenhouse gasses.
Earlier this year Corbett also was named a member of a research team conducting greenhouse gas emissions analysis on global shipping for the IMO. Corbett joins a team of experts from Norway, Sweden, South Korea, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States. He is one of only two representatives from the United States.
To learn more about CMES, visit www.ocean.udel.edu.