Ports reveal unprecedented surge in harmful emissions; officials blame COVID-19 logjam
By Michael S. Schmidt
28 March 2020
More than 90 percent of the world’s ports have shut down and, due to the global economic downturn, a significant number of ports around the world are also temporarily closed. Yet this “lockdown” is not preventing shipping, including oil and gas shipments, from entering the ports.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the largest surge in emissions in human history. In addition, the pandemic is causing the largest crisis for the shipping and oil and gas industry in a generation. On March 12, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic after it was discovered that a close relative of China’s novel coronavirus had entered human populations in Wuhan, China, first.
The World Bank has estimated that the global trade loss due to COVID-19 will be $744 billion in the initial period of economic recovery, and at $1 trillion in the first quarter of 2021 in the second quarter. Even once the pandemic has ended, the economic damage will spread worldwide.
The surge in shipping emissions is related to the shutdown of major ports in Europe and the U.S., despite the fact that shipping emissions in Asia and the Pacific have not significantly changed since the 1980s.
The economic impact is evident in the United States, where large, medium, and small-sized ports and inland waterways are either shuttered or have restrictions in place. In general, the majority of America’s largest ports have experienced a surge in emissions from shipping, oil and gas, and other sources. According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, the biggest increase in shipping emissions has been in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and the largest decrease has been on the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported on March 18, “The U.S. Coast Guard and its stakeholders have been assessing the economic impact of the federal response to COVID-19 and are in the process of reviewing the 2020 baseline year transportation emissions inventory to inform the federal response over the