Clean shipping fuel speeds global warming: NASA scientists

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NEW shipping fuel regulations introduced in 2020 have led to a significant reduction in sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution, but they may also be contributing to ocean warming by reducing cloud cover, according to a recent study, reports Reuters.A new paper from a team of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scientists has pushed one of the most controversial topics in climate science into high gear, reported New York’s Forbes magazine.

According to the research, published in the journal Nature, a major reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide in 2020, following the introduction of new international shipping fuel regulations, led to a “termination shock” that they say could add 0.16 degrees Celsius (0.29 degrees Fahrenheit) of heat to the world’s oceans over seven years, greatly accelerating global warming.

The UN’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) implemented rules to tackle marine pollution, requiring shippers to cut their fuel sulphur content from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent, leading to an 80 per cent decline in SO2 emissions.

However, SO2 also plays a role in masking global warming by forming aerosols that thicken and brighten clouds, reflecting sunlight back into space.

Research led by Tianle Yuan at the University of Maryland suggests that IMO fuel standards could be responsible for 80 per cent of the planet’s total net heat uptake since 2020, with the impact particularly pronounced in busy shipping lanes.

This reduction in SO2 emissions is identified as a potential contributor to record ocean temperatures observed last year.

Some climate scientists also suggest that reductions in air pollution around the world may have accelerated global warming.