Sea shipping and climate change

A discussion on the shipping industry's impact on climate change.

June 14, 2018
7:00 p.m.

Leaving Port, Rotterdam, Dave Collier

The Five Thousand Pound Life is the League’s ongoing initiative to rethink our collective future through design in the face of climate change.

Transportation: Connection and its costs

How do we imagine transportation futures at a time of climate change? The Five Thousand Pound Life: Transportation explores the relationships between different forms of mobility and climate change. Looking at air and sea transportation this spring, and land-based transit in the fall, this series will ask scholars and practitioners to attempt to unpack the varying relationships between mobility, land use, and climate change. We hope to achieve not only deeper understanding of the impact of existing transportation modes, but also projections of less carbon intensive, more inclusive transport futures. Learn more about the Five Thousand Pound Life project.

About tonight's event

Although generally hidden from consumers, international maritime transport is the backbone of the globalized economy and accounts for approximately 2.2% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Despite its significant carbon output, international shipping and aviation emissions are not addressed by global climate-change agreements including the Paris Agreement. Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping are increasing despite improvements in operational efficiency for many ship classes and increasing emissions are being driven by rising demand for shipping and the associated consumption of fossil fuels.

The industry is likely to be affected by wide-ranging and potentially devastating climate change impacts associated with rising sea levels and increased frequency/intensity of extreme weather events. Shipping policies must be applied worldwide to be effective, and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which regulates international shipping, is engaging — slowly. Last month member countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, but some members believe it’s not enough to combat climate change in smaller island nations.

This session will analyze how the shipping industry impacts and will be impacted by climate change as well as where architects—and consumers – can accelerate innovation and change.


Designer Jesse LeCavalier and sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen will serve as moderators and interlocutors for all programs in The Five Thousand Pound Life: Transportation series.

Jesse LeCavalier is a designer, writer, and educator whose work explores the architectural and urban implications of contemporary logistics. He is the author of The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). He is assistant professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Daniel Rose Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. His work has been published widely, including contributions to CabinetPublic CulturePlacesArt Papers, and Harvard Design Magazine. 

Daniel Aldana Cohen is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs the Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative, or (SC)2, which investigates the intersection of social and ecological inequalities in the built environment, with an eye to broad public engagement and public policy. His work focuses on the politics of climate change, investigating the intersections of climate change, political economy, inequalities of race and social class, and political projects of elites and social movements in global cities of the North and South.  His work on the first per capita map of New Yorkers’ carbon footprint was featured in The Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas by Rebecca Solnit and Jonathan Jelly Shapiro.

Bryan Comer is a senior researcher in the International Council on Clean Transportation’s Marine Program. His research informs policies that reduce the environmental and human health impacts of air pollution from marine vessels and ports, including black carbon. Bryan specializes in marine and port emissions inventories and in modeling the economic, environmental, and energy use tradeoffs of freight transportation policies. Bryan holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, as well as an M.S. and B.S. in Public Policy from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Charmaine Chua is a Singaporean writer and Assistant Professor of Politics at Oberlin College. Her research is on the politics of global circulation, and explores three main intersections: the rise of logistics in capitalist world order, the politics of built infrastructure, and the colonial afterlives of global supply chains. She is currently working on a book manuscript that uses political ethnography to examine the transpacific container trade as a logistical economy of racialized containment and carceral violence. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Historical Materialism, Political Geography, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space,  Routledge, and the Journal of Narrative Politics


This project is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Five Thousand Pound Life is also supported by Oldcastle Glass.


Image credit: Dave Collier, Leaving Port, Rotterdam

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