Thursday, 19 July, 2018

There's been a mysterious rise in ozone-destroying emissions

Beijing is shrouded with smog Beijing is shrouded with smog
Doris Mccormick | 17 May, 2018, 12:39

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.

The researchers built mathematical models to account for these observations, which suggest CFC-11 emissions have actually been increasing by around 25% each year since 2012, despite virtually no CFC-11 production being reported to the relevant authorities during this time.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol phased out ozone-damaging chemicals like CFC-11 worldwide. The discovery is likely to encourage the worldwide investigation of a mysterious source. This suggests that there may be a new and unreported production of CFC-11, possibly from East Asia.

By 2010, the production of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), the second most abundant CFC controlled by the Montreal Protocol, was believed to be completely halted.

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.

But they concluded these sources could not explain the increase, which they calculated at about 13 billion grams per year in recent years.

These could hamper the recovery of the ozone hole and worsen climate change. They found that the difference in CFC-11 concentrations between the northern and southern hemispheres has been increasing, which points to a northern hemisphere source.

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The goal of the study was not to point fingers; but figuring out where the emissions are coming from is a crucial environmental question.

"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".

That has led scientists to predict that by mid- to late-century, the abundance of ozone-depleting gases would to fall to levels last seen before the Antarctic ozone hole began to appear in the early 1980s.

However, if no action is taken on the new source of emissions, it could be highly significant. He calls it "rogue production", adding that if it continues "the recovery of the ozone layer would be threatened".

In response to these new reports, the United Nations Environment Programme released a statement, highlighting the efficacy of the Montreal Protocol with science at its very core. Production levels have been reported to be at zero by countries that are responsible to enforce the global ban, notes the report. But from 2012 onwards the decline in CFC-11 has been 50% slower than expected.

"They're going to find the culprits".

Overall, it is important to underscore that the ozone layer is slowly recovering and ozone-depleting substances are still declining. More work will be needed to narrow down the locations of these new emissions, Montzka said.

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