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Health and climate impacts of ocean-going vessels in East Asia


East Asia has the most rapidly growing shipping emissions of both CO2 and traditional air pollutants, but the least in-depth analysis. Full evaluation of all pollutants is needed to assess the impacts of shipping emissions. Here, using an advanced method based on detailed dynamic ship activity data, we show that shipping emissions in East Asia accounted for 16% of global shipping CO2 in 2013, compared to only 4–7% in 2002–2005. Increased emissions lead to large adverse health impacts, with 14,500–37,500 premature deaths per year. Global mean radiative forcing from East Asian shipping is initially negative, but would become positive after approximately eight years for constant current emissions. As a large fraction of vessels are registered elsewhere, joint efforts are necessary to reduce emissions and mitigate the climate and health impacts of shipping in the region.

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Figure 1: Spatial distribution of CO2 emissions from East Asian shipping.
Figure 2: Radiative forcing (W m−2) attributable to aerosols and ozone from East Asian shipping.
Figure 3: Premature deaths per year attributable to East Asian shipping emissions in each 0.5° × 0.5° grid box.
Figure 4: Statistics of CO2 emissions by the ship registration and emission location.
Figure 5: Comparison of this study and other studies analysed for the same East Asia region.


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This work is supported by the National Nature Science Fund of China (91544110, 41571447, 51508304). We thank Motzus Co. and H. Cui for graph design, and S. Liu for the data survey.

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Authors and Affiliations



H.L. designed the study and wrote the paper. D.S. designed and wrote the climate and health impact sections. M.F., X.J. and Y.S. conducted the emissions modelling work. G.F. conducted the composition–climate modelling. G.F. and C.S. performed the health impact analyses. K.H. provided insights on ship emission inventory and discussion. All authors contributed to interpretation of the data and provided comments on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Huan Liu, Drew Shindell or Kebin He.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Liu, H., Fu, M., Jin, X. et al. Health and climate impacts of ocean-going vessels in East Asia. Nature Clim Change 6, 1037–1041 (2016).

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