Has the World Been Fooled by Misleading Climate Change Statistics?

Shipping is not an industry or means of transport that immediately makes you think of nasty climate change statistics—compared to, say, diesel trucks—but a new report out of the University of Manchester’s Tydall Centre for Climate Change Research is warning that “the global shipping industry’s carbon emissions could account for almost all of the world’s emissions by 2050 if current rates of growth continue.”

Have we been fooled into believing that shipping is the god-send of eco-friendly transportation? Well, even the authorities don’t have it straight. A 2008 leaked UN report indicates that emissions from shipping has been vastly underestimated and yet according to another report, “International shipping is already, by far, the most carbon efficient mode of commercial transport.”

In the case of the UK, details have emerged as to how and why we’ve been misled.

“The dramatic change in the estimate of CO2 from UK shipping is based on the fact that, up until now, the UK’s emissions are calculated using international bunker fuel sales—that is fuel purchased at UK ports,” according to the report. That’s a misleading statistic, though, since most ships get fuel at ports such as Rotterdam in Holland, where prices are more competitive.

The UK researchers are thus proposing to measure any carbon emissions released from shipping involved in UK trade—both imports and exports—rather than amounts of fuel sold. And, on that basis, emissions skyrocket.

So there you have it. This may just be the next scandal to hit the field of climate science and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

[Thumbnail image via Flickr user Grantsviews, top image by this Flickr user]