In 2018, the dry goods cargo included 1,263 million tons of coal, according to UNCTAD. When the tonnages for coal, oil, gas and petrochemicals are summed up, they constitute nearly 4,500 million tons out of the 11,000 million tons of total maritime shipping.

But this isn’t necessarily bad news, as the climate activist Bill McKibben pointed out in his newsletter. “Because it means that if and when we make the transition to solar power and windpower, we will not just stop pouring carbon into the atmosphere, and not just save money—we will also reduce the number of ships sailing back and forth by almost half,” McKibben wrote.

Of course, that drastic reduction in ships on the sea may not happen as McKibben envisions; after all, solar panels and wind turbines will need to be transported around the world as well. But perhaps the ships operating in that future will have found ways to run on green fuel, in which case they will have decarbonized both themselves and their cargo.

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