Shipping and Climate Change

Balthazar Schulte, Lyttleton Harbor, New Zealand

I recently read a Time article that pointed out that shipping accounts for 2.2% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. To put it in perspective the writer, Aryn Baker, suggests that if shipping was a country, it would be the sixth largest CO2 emitter in the world, on par with Germany.

In her reporting from last year’s COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference), she writes:

 “It doesn’t matter if we want iPhones that come from China, steaks from Brazil or to tow an iceberg to Glasgow; we all depend fundamentally on international shipping for everything that we do,” says Johannah Christensen, head of the Global Maritime Forum.

“This just underscores the importance of decarbonizing shipping.”

Some ferryboats have transitioned to battery power. For the 60,000 ocean going cargo ships transporting global goods, the most promising technology, says Christensen, is either hydrogen or synthetic fuels.

Making these fuels available sustains the globalization the world depends on for just about everything. In The Age of Aquarius, renewable fuels keep ships rolling on the high seas as we transition from grey to green. Check it out!

Natural Gas, Methane and Nitrogen Oxides

I didn’t realize that natural gas is mostly methane which is about 84 times worse for climate change compared to CO2.

As reported in the recently published study “Methane and NOx Emissions from Natural Gas Stoves, Cooktops, and Ovens in Residential Homes,” methane leaks are bad news for both environmental and personal health. (Lebel, et al, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2022, 56, 4, 2529–2539)

Methane risks

The abstract in the Lebel article states:

  • Natural gas stoves in >40 million U.S. residences release methane (CH4) ─a potent greenhouse gas, through post-meter leaks and incomplete combustion.
  • Using a 20-year timeframe for methane, annual methane emissions from all gas stoves in U.S. homes have a climate impact comparable to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 500,000 cars.
  • In addition to methane emissions, co-emitted health-damaging air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released into home air and can trigger respiratory diseases.
  • Our data suggest that families who don’t use their range hoods or who have poor ventilation can surpass the one hour national standard of NO2 (100 ppb) within a few minutes of stove usage, particularly in smaller kitchens.

Climate Change: Replacing Natural Gas and Coal Burning in the USA

Could biomass energy reduce the increased demand on electricity for home heating?

Could the clean burning of biomass make a greater percentage of electricity partially replacing coal and natural gas, powerful climate forcers?

As seen above, renewable energy now makes 20% of the electricity generated in the USA.

Residential and commercial energy use makes up 13% of USA greenhouse emissions. Making electricity generates another 25%. (Total: 38%)

Could carbon neutral biomass energy help to heat more homes and generate more electricity?

Using the emission hoods in our lab, we are investigating how to design (and manufacture) very clean burning pellet and log-burning heating stoves.

We’ll update progress here.