Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Money | By Bruce West

Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production

Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production

The new study has found that from 2014 to 2016, emissions of CFC-11 have increased by 25 percent above the average measured from 2002 to 2012, slowing the decline of the chemical by 50 percent from 2012.

Emissions of a banned, ozone-depleting chemical are on the rise, a group of scientists reported Wednesday, suggesting someone may be secretly manufacturing the pollutant in violation of an global accord.

The most likely source, according to the study, is from new, unreported production from an unidentified source in East Asia.

The protocol was a huge success, slowly shrinking the giant hole that forms over Antarctica each September.

CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of CFCs that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.

"Knowing how much time and effort and resources have gone into healing the ozone layer, and to see this is a shocker, frankly", said Montzka.

Two years after the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic in 1985, the Montreal Protocol was signed, an worldwide treaty which introduced restrictions on the production of CFCs. "Further work is needed to figure out exactly why emissions of CFC-11 are increasing and if something can be done about it soon".

Researchers at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have noticed an unexpected and persistent increase in ozone-destroying chemicals, called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

But there a growing scientific doubts about the progress of healing in the ozone hole.

However, a study recently published in Nature reveals that CFC-11 production may be happening somewhere in the world despite the Montreal Protocol.

"The authors pinpoint a new source of CFC-11 to East Asia, breaking Montreal Protocol rules".

In 2013, plumes of air containing elevated levels of CFC-11 were detected at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. "We know of no production even for intermediary or side products".

"It's disappointing, I would not have expected it to happen", said Michaela Hegglin from Reading University, who was not involved in the study.

Watson suggested that aircraft flights might be necessary to better identify the source of the emissions.

To put this in perspective, at peak emissions in the 1980s, the world was producing 350,000 tons of CFC-11 each year, before dropping to 54,000 tons per year at the turn of the century.

"It is therefore imperative that this finding be discussed at the next Ministerial meeting of Governments given recovery of the ozone layer is dependent on all countries complying with the Montreal Protocol (and its adjustments and amendments) with emissions globally dropping to zero".

With the global community agreeing further, significant phase-outs in Kigali, in 2016, the researchers say early-warning, air-monitoring systems will be an essential part of the future policing of emissions.

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