We’re not wholly convinced by the original pollution complaint here. Our opinion - and it is merely opinion - is that the claims of atmospheric damage done by high sulphur fuels in shipping are rather over cooked. But, you know, the world disagrees, so there must be less sulphur emitted by ships at sea. This could mean using expensive low sulphur fuel or it could mean the less expensive process of scrubbing the exhaust of the sulphur.
We tend to think that getting rid of pollution at lower cost is better than getting rid of it at higher. Apparently some disagree:
Thousands of ships are set to install “emissions cheat” systems that pump pollutants into the ocean to beat new international rules banning dirty fuel.
The global shipping fleet is rushing to meet a 2020 deadline imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce air pollution by forcing vessels to use cleaner fuel with a lower sulphur content of 0.5%, compared with 3.5% as currently used.
The move comes after growing concerns about the health impacts of shipping emissions. A report in Nature this year said 400,000 premature deaths a year are caused by emissions from dirty shipping fuel, which also account for 14 million childhood asthma cases per year.
But the move to cleaner fuel could see harmful pollutants increasingly dumped at sea.
Assume that we agree with the initial effects - we’d certainly like to miss out on 14 million cases of childhood asthma. And at the lowest cost.
The complaint is that they’ll not put the sulphur into the air by the clever trick of putting it into the water instead. Fine by us. But not, as is apparent here, by them.
Quite why we’re not sure. The Atlantic Ocean apparently contains some 7 billion tonnes of just the one form of sulphur. In general the oceans are 0.1% sulphur. The volcanoes of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge pump out enough sulphur that there’s an entire ecosystem that lives on the stuff. The amount that ships don’t put into the air isn’t going to make the blindest bit of difference to these numbers.
Either some people are just never satisfied or, more realistically, some people want to insist that no one may do anything, ever.