A recent study conducted by The European Federation for Transport and Environment has revealed that 63 cruise ships owned by Carnival Corp. emitted more sulfur oxides in 2022 than all the cars in Europe combined. This shocking statistic highlights the significant environmental cost of the cruise industry’s tendencies of overconsumption.
The study, which can be accessed here, found that these cruise ships emitted 43% more sulfur oxides than the 291 million cars in Europe. However, it is important to note that this represents a significant decrease compared to previous years. In 2017, the same organization discovered that ships owned by Carnival Corp. emitted 10 times more sulfur oxides than all of Europe’s cars.
This reduction in emissions can largely be attributed to a rule implemented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2020. The rule lowered the sulfur content limit of ship fuel from 3.5% to 0.5%. While this rule has successfully reduced sulfur emissions from individual ships, it has not addressed the increasing number of cruise ships and their fuel consumption. As a result, the overall emissions of sulfur oxides from cruise ships increased by 9% in 2022 compared to 2017.
The emission of sulfur oxides from cruise ships has serious implications for both human health and the climate. These pollutants can have adverse effects on air quality and contribute to respiratory illnesses, such as asthma. Furthermore, sulfur particles in the atmosphere have a cooling effect, which cancels out some of the warming caused by greenhouse gases. As aerosol emissions decrease due to new regulations, like the IMO’s shipping fuel rule, global temperatures may rise more rapidly in the short term.
In addition to sulfur oxides, cruise ships also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions. The study found that carbon dioxide emissions from cruise ships visiting European ports in 2022 were equivalent to emissions from 50,000 flights between Paris and New York. This represents a 17% increase compared to 2019.
The cruise industry has faced scrutiny for its environmental impact, with Carnival Corp. being involved in several environmental violations. In 2017, Princess, a cruise line owned by Carnival, was fined $40 million for deliberately dumping oil-contaminated waste into the ocean and covering it up. The company was also fined an additional $20 million for violating the terms of its probation.
To address these concerns and meet the growing demand for sustainable travel, the cruise industry has started investing in alternative energy sources. This includes the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and shore power. LNG can significantly reduce air pollution, but it may also lead to the leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Carnival Corp. has set ambitious goals to reduce its carbon intensity by 40% by 2030, compared to 2008 levels, and achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2050. Approximately 60% of the company’s global fleet is equipped with technology to use shore-side power while docked. Despite a forecasted capacity increase of 30%, Carnival Corp. claims to have reduced fuel consumption and carbon intensity by 15% per cabin since 2019 through various efforts.
The company acknowledges that addressing climate change requires the development of energy sources and technologies that do not yet exist for any industry. However, it is committed to pioneering sustainability initiatives and collaborating with various stakeholders to share information, research, and best practices.
Instances of environmental violations within the cruise industry raise concern about the need for stricter regulations and accountability. However, as the industry continues to invest in sustainable practices, there is hope for reducing its carbon footprint and mitigating its impact on the environment.
If you work on a cruise ship or live in a port city and have a story to share, please email the reporter at email@example.com.