Climate & Cargo: Why it Matters

Climate & Cargo: The State of Sustainable Shipping

One of the most frequently reoccurring topics in transportation news is the global effort to green the supply chain and make shipping more sustainable. From Electric trucks to fuel taxes, you’ve likely heard a lot about new technologies and government actions to cut carbon emissions and other pollutants. To help you stay informed and understand the current state of the industry, while also looking forward to what’s to come, we’ve decided to dedicate a few upcoming blog articles to this topic.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be dispersing stories related to “Climate & Cargo” among our normal coverage of shipping news and events. To kick things off we wanted to give a primer on this issue. The questions we want to answer for you in this post are 1. Why is Climate an important issue broadly speaking 2. How does shipping affect climate 3. How does (and how will) climate change affect global logistics.

Why Climate

In many ways, Climate change is the defining issue for upcoming generations. Over the next several decades the world will inarguably change due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and the climate changing effect that they have. You’ve likely heard many of the startling statistics about the issue of Climate Change already, so we’ll keep this section brief.

The long story short of the overall climate picture is that scientists say, in order to stop the most devastating possible outcomes of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that we need to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius above “pre-industrial levels”. This involves getting global greenhouse gas emissions down 45% from the levels they were at in 2010 and reaching “Net-Zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

In this scenario, the world would still see many worsening effects of climate change that we’ve already experienced, like warming and rising oceans, increased severe weather events, and mass migrations in response to these events. However, by reducing our emissions sharply we would avoid the most catastrophic outcomes and secure a safe future for the planet.

Cargo’s Contribution to Climate Change

So why are we talking about this on a blog all about transportation? Most estimates show that broadly “transportation” makes up over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Though this number does include the transportation of both goods and people, there is no doubt that the transportation of goods makes up a large portion of the emissions.

When trying to get more granular on freight emissions, it’s hard to pin down any exact figures. For example, Most experts estimate that global ocean shipping makes up roughly 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that ocean shipping is the least carbon-intensive part of shipping goods, in that road and air transportation makes up a much larger share of emissions. Due to the complexity and scale of the global supply chain, it’s hard to get numbers that are more specific than this, but almost all experts and statistics say that shipping goods across the globe has a huge impact on our climate.

The Climate Strikes Back

Not only does the global supply chain have a huge impact on the climate, but the climate is also having an increasingly large impact on the global supply chain. As the planet continues to warm and the climate continues to change, globally we will experience more and more extreme weather events. This means that certain areas will be hit with more droughts and floods (see our post on 2021 BC Flooding), while others will experience more tsunamis or hurricanes.

Climate & Cargo: Flooding in BC's Fraser Valley
Flooding in the BC’s Fraser Valley – 2021

All of these disasters can prove extremely impactful for the globally fine-tuned supply chain. A perfect example of this was the deluge of floods and wildfires that hit the Canadian west coast last year. Days of serious flooding knocked out key highways which cut off key transportation corridors for weeks. As storms like this begin to crop up around the world over the next few years, we’re likely to see more frequent delays that are similar to, or even worse than, the ones we’ve seen thus far.

Where we go from here

Despite these grim predictions, there is hope on the horizon when it comes to sustainability in the supply chain. From the electrification of ground transport to alternative fuel development, there are strides being taken every day toward more sustainable global logistics. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be sporadically mixing in articles that cover the current state and future outlook of sustainable transportation for ground, air, and ocean cargo as well as special topics like e-commerce. If you’re interested in this topic be sure to subscribe to our newsletter as we’ll be sharing these articles there as soon as they go up on our website.

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