Over the weekend, podcasting czar and legendary stand up, Joe Rogan, posted on his Instagram about cruise ships and their emissions. The long and the short of his claim was this: The average mid-sized cruise emits the same amount of pollution as one-million cars per day.
On its face, that seems crazy, but Rogan is right: Cruise ships are a nightmare for the environment. This was well-known, of course, but it’s one of those conversations that tend to resurface (and ought to). After all, massive cruiseliners are exacerbating climate change and causing health crises around the world.
First of all, the particles. Cruise ships are pumping mind-boggling amounts of particles, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide into the air literally 24/7. The biggest reason for this is that cruise ships, generally, burn the lowest grade fuel there is, heavy fuel oil. This fuel is a by-product from the production of diesel and gas in refineries. It’s amazingly dirty and cruise ships are burning it nonstop because, as the post from Rogan states, cruise ships never turn the engine off.
What’s more, most cruise ships have not been equipped with any sort of filtration systems. That means all of those toxins are going into the air, unimpeded. Even our cars have filters on the tail pipe. Studies have found that taking a cruise ship across an ocean averaged out the same pollution that’d be put out by five million cars running the same distance. The combination of the lowest-grade fuel and lack of any filtration makes this a dire way to travel.
There has been some progress of late. Cities are fighting back against the cruise line industry by demanding they burn better fuel if they want to dock in their ports. Exhaust filters are being called for as well. Still, there’s a long way to go. Studies of the air around a ship and onboard often shows the air quality to be worse than the most polluted cities on the planet, where air pollution has become a deadly concern.
This all seems like a big enough issue that cruise ships would be waning in the current climate of looming environmental disaster and so-called “woke” travel. Yet, attendance on cruise ships is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry with 25 million people taking a cruise last year alone.
So, yeah, we should all be having the same reaction as Rogan here: What the fuck?