NOAA finds rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol

NOAA finds rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol

NOAA finds rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol

According to the report, published in Nature and led by Stephen Montzka of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the amount of CFC-11 had gradually been declining over time as countries stopped producing it and what remained in the atmosphere faded out, but its rate of decline sharply decreased over the past year. But with emissions on the rise, scientists suspect someone is making the chemical in defiance of the ban.

Last fall, it was reported that the hole in the Earth's ozone layer had shrunk to its smallest size since 1988, which was great news. Reports a year ago indicated that production of new chlorine containing chemicals could cause significant delay.

However, results from the new analysis of NOAA atmospheric measurements show that from 2014 to 2016, emissions of CFC-11 increased by more than 14,000 tons per year to about 65,000 tons per year, or 25 percent above average emissions during 2002 to 2012.

Another key question is whether there could be another explanation for a slower decline in CFC-11 post-2012, such as a change in the rate of chemical processes such as UV photolysis that break down CFC-11 in the stratosphere, or an increase in emissions from CFC "banks" - reservoirs that persist in old equipment and products that are still in use. Emissions of this CFC to the atmosphere reached about 386,000 tons per year at their peak later in the decade.

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Nearly no CFC-11 has been been produced since 2006 - or so we thought.

The chemical is also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

"I hope that somehow the worldwide community can put pressure on South East Asian countries, maybe China, to go and look at whether they can get more information on where the emissions come from".

"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".

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Keith Weller, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program, which helps implement the protocol, said the findings would be presented to the parties to the agreement for review. "It is therefore, critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action".

If the study is verified, this would be a clear violation of the Montreal Protocol. "That's a tough group of people". But from 2012 onwards the decline in CFC-11 has been 50% slower than expected.

"We're raising a flag to the global community to say, 'This is what's going on, and it is taking us away from timely recovery of the ozone layer, '" said Montzka. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats. Though concentrations of CFC11 in the atmosphere are still declining, they're declining more slowly than they would if there were no new sources, Montzka said.

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