Carbon dating fossil fuels

As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse.The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.Thanks to the IMO’s rules, the largest ships can each emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur in a year – the same as 50million typical cars, each emitting an average of 100 grams of sulphur a year.With an estimated 800million cars driving around the planet, that means 16 super-ships can emit as much sulphur as the world fleet of cars.For decades, the IMO has rebuffed calls to clean up ship pollution.As a result, while it has long since been illegal to belch black, sulphur-laden smoke from power-station chimneys or lorry exhausts, shipping has kept its licence to pollute. IMO rules allow ships to burn fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulphur.

Carbon-based compounds are the basis for all living systems and comprise the structure of fossil fuels in the form of hydrocarbons. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry designated the isotope C-12 as the basis for atomic weights, while the unstable isotope C-14, with a half-life of 5700 years, is used for carbon dating.Ships are as big a contributor to global warming as aircraft – but have had much less attention from environmentalists.Both international shipping and aviation are exempt from the Kyoto Protocol rules on cutting carbon emissions.But green pressure is having its effect on airlines.Ahead of next month’s Copenhagen climate talks, airlines have promised to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

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