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Lunch Hour Lectures: The handmaiden’s emissions – international shipping in changing climates

Thomas Hughes28 January 2016

“This lecture on the handmaiden’s emissions is not actually about the flatulence of household servants,” Dr Tristan Smith (UCL Energy Institute) joked at the Lunch Hour Lecture on 26 January. The “handmaiden” is in fact the affectionate nickname used for the world’s shipping – so called because it is globalisation’s servant, without which we wouldn’t have the same food, commodities or fuel.

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, the first Triple-E, passing Port Said in the Suez Canal on its maiden voyage.

Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, credit: Maersk Line.

However, it has a huge environmental cost in CO2 emissions that has continued to grow as GDP and demand has risen. Dr Smith has been working with the team in the UCL Energy Institute to help find solutions to cut emissions, while keeping costs low.

An average container ship has around 1,500 containers on it, with each container the size to be pulled by a single lorry. There are thousands of these ships, which in total account for about 2-3% of global emissions.

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