Warming to the good life

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

24 August 2017


Shipping has always been subject to the effects of natural and geo-political events sometimes for better and often for worse. In the last two decades or so, arguably the biggest influences on shipping’s fortunes have been the economic rise of China and the regulation imposed on shipping as a response to climate change policies on a global scale. With regard to the latter, shipping is being pressured to reduce its environmental impact by making voluntary and enforced efficiencies in operation aimed at reducing CO2 emissions to prevent global warming. The rights and wrongs of that are subject to personal interpretation but (link: http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/research_news/201708/t20170808_181809.shtml text: a recent paper produced by Professor GE Quansheng of the Chinese Academy of Science) seems to suggest that China’s current economic boom could be due to global warming and might be put at risk if the earth cools. That is not because of the emissions from Chinese factories but an observed impact of climate through history. Prof. GE Quansheng and his group from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, collected a large number of proxies such as tre rings, sediments and the like and reconstructed a 2000-year temperature series in China with a 10-year resolution, enabling them to quantitatively reveal the characteristics of temperature change in China over a common era. It seems that the research revealed that the general characteristics of the impacts of climatic change historically were negative in the cold periods and positive in the warm periods. For example, 25 of the 31 most prosperous periods in imperial China during the past 2000 years occurred during periods of warmth or warming. A cooling trend at the centennial scale and social economic decline run hand-in-hand. The rapid development supported by better resources and a better environment in warm periods could lead to an increase in social vulnerability when the climate turns once more to being relatively colder. It would be ironic if the measures being imposed on shipping under environmental regulations result not only in a cooler world but a very much less active one economically – at least as far as China is concerned . By implement the regulations which come with an economic cost, shipping would also be contributing to its overall decline – not a good scenario for the industry.