New Study Points to Link Between IMO 2020 Transition and Ocean Warming

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Friday June 7, 2024

A new academic report has pointed to a link between shipping's IMO 2020 transition to lower-sulfur fuels and warming of the ocean.

The study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment last week, looks at the possibility of sulfur-laden exhaust from ships prior to 2020 having helped to cool the climate, and this effect having been significantly weakened since the transition to using VLSFO.

"Aerosols sourced from the global shipping industry affect clouds, and we can view the shipping emission as a long-running inadvertent marine cloud brightening experiment," the study's authors said.

"While IMO 2020 is intended to benefit public health by decreasing aerosol loading, this decrease in aerosols can temporarily accelerate global warming by dimming clouds across the global oceans."

The report acknowledges 'several sources of uncertainties' in the theory, and as Ship & Bunker has reported previously, there is an active academic debate on this topic.

Climate scientists have been discussing as far back as 2016 the possibility that cutting the sulfur content of marine fuels might exacerbate global warming.

In any case, with the improvements to human respiratory health brought about by IMO 2020, and with the shipping industry moving away from fossil fuels with sulfur emissions as a result of decarbonisation, it is highly unlikely that the IMO would mandate a reversal of its 0.50% sulfur mandate from 2020.

To read the new study, click here.