lpg ship

Quantifying ocean-based greenhouse gas emissions


Understanding and mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is imperative in the global effort to address climate change. While there have been wide-ranging previous efforts to inventory GHG emissions at-sea, the datasets these efforts created have not been made publicly available at high resolution for tackling innovative research questions. Additionally, prior attempts to quantify GHG contributions from ocean-based activities have faced an important limitation in that the comprehensive footprint of human activity at sea has partially been unknown – until recently. In a recent collaboration with Global Fishing Watch, our team at emLab played a pivotal role in producing the first global map of large vessel traffic. Leveraging this cutting-edge tool, we are analyzing the global distribution of industrial vessel activity to quantify the scale of GHG emissions resulting from ocean-based vessel traffic. This project critically enhances our understanding of the environmental impact from ocean-based vessels, opening up new opportunities for research to offer insights that may inform future climate policies and market-based solutions geared towards the reduction of GHG emissions.


In collaboration with Global Fishing Watch, we are using open-source data and technology and leveraging previous research to create a publicly available model and dataset that accurately measures fossil fuel emissions from all ocean vessels. Our first task is developing a model to measure GHG emissions from all vessels equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). AIS is a publicly available method to monitor a vessel's activities, although not all vessels are required to use it. Therefore, measuring emissions from vessels that broadcast AIS can only provide part of the global picture, and misses potential emissions from vessels that do not broadcast AIS. Building on another recent collaborative project with Global Fishing Watch and National Geographic Pristine Seas, we hope to expand this dataset to quantify emissions from “dark” vessels – those not using AIS and thus not publicly tracked. With this comprehensive global emissions dataset covering all ocean vessels we will be able to answer novel research questions that can inform diverse policy and market-based solutions aimed at reducing GHG emissions at sea.


This project is a collaboration with Global Fishing Watch.