Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic February 04, 2015 - 3:13 pm

Arctic ship traffic needs more pollution-reducing measures: report

Soot, sulfur impact "local air quality, human health, and the global climate"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Even minimal changes to Arctic shipping regulations could produce big results, a new study says. (FILE PHOTO)
Even minimal changes to Arctic shipping regulations could produce big results, a new study says. (FILE PHOTO)

Polluting emissions from ships in the Arctic could increase 150 to 600 per cent by 2025, finds a new research study by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

That’s if nothing is done to reduce the amount of sulfur in marine fuel and to tighten up on dirty emissions from vessels heading into Arctic waters.

The pollutants, which include soot and carbon dioxide, are known to warm the environment and have also been linked to respiratory health issues.

The result of inaction? Additional stress on the Arctic environment and Arctic communities, an executive summary of the study says.

This study, prepared for the United States Committee on the Marine Transportation System, looked at various scenarios for growth in marine vessel traffic in the U.S. Arctic in 2025.

Marine vessels are a significant source of greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, particulate matter, such as black carbon or soot, which impact “local air quality, human health, and the global climate,” the summary report notes.

Previous research has shown that reducing soot emissions from diesel engines and other sources could cool down the Arctic faster and more economically than any other quick fix.

But no standards for engine emissions on oceangoing vessels are currently in place — and there are widespread calls to delay the global 0.5 per cent fuel sulfur limit to 2025 or beyond, the summary says.

The research found that making even a small change, such as switching to 0.1 per cent sulfur fuel, could reduce potential emissions in 2025 under 2011 levels, even if Arctic vessel traffic doubles between by 2025 to 1,500 to 2,000 Bering Strait transits from 440 transits in 2013.

That number of vessels is still more than in the Canadian Arctic, but the Canadian Coast Guard expects marine traffic in Canadian Arctic waters could double when mining projects take off or if ice conditions make the Northwest Passage a more attractive shipping option.

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