Friday, August 5, 2011

International Maritime Organization MEPC agrees on work plan for Black Carbon impacts in Arctic

At the 62nd session of the Marine Environment Protection Committtee, London 11-15 July 2011, the MEPC:
    "agreed a work plan on addressing the impact in the Arctic of black carbon emissions from ships and instructed the Sub-Committee on Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) to:  develop a definition for black carbon  emissions from international shipping; consider measurement methods for black carbon  and identify the most appropriate method for measuring black carbon emissions from international shipping; investigate appropriate control measures to reduce the impacts of black carbon emissions from international shipping in the Arctic; and submit a final report to MEPC 65 (in 2014).
     Black carbon is a strongly light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosol produced by incomplete combustion of fuel oil and is considered a constituent of primary particulate matter, as distinguished from secondary particulate matter pollutants formed in the atmosphere from sulphur dioxide emissions. In addition to harmful human health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter, Black carbon has effects on climate change. When deposited on snow and ice in the Arctic and lower latitudes, it darkens light surfaces and absorbs energy, causing snow and ice to melt."

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.