Chemical that eats ozone layer on rise

Gwen Vasquez
May 17, 2018

However, starting in 2013, emissions of CFC11 have been rising again, according to a study by a team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, published in Nature magazine. Use of the chemical was banned in 2010 via the Montreal Protocol, an global agreement made to protect the environment. The report also points out that there are alternatives to CFC-11 which are easy to come by and safer to use, so there is no real-world reason to continue using it, making the case all the more perplexing.

Officially, production of CFC-11 is supposed to be at or near zero - at least, that is what countries have been telling the United Nations body that monitors and enforces the Protocol.

The protocol was a huge success, slowly shrinking the giant hole that forms over Antarctica each September. A smaller amount of CFC11 also exists today in older refrigerators and freezers.

But in the last few years, it looks like someone has started cheating. However, a new study has found that emissions of a type of CFC has spiked by a shocking 25 percent since 2012, reports the Washington Post.

"Emissions today are about the same as it was almost 20 years ago", he said. But the data just didn't match up.

Their results indicate that emissions of trichlorofluoromethane - known as CFC-11 - are increasing, suggesting it is still being produced and used despite a ban on manufacturing it after 2010. "We don't know why they might be doing that and if it is being made for some specific goal, or inadvertently as a side product of some other chemical process", said Stephen Montzka of the NOAA, lead author of the study.

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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.

If the source of these new emissions can be identified and controlled soon, the damage to the ozone layer should be minor, Montzka said. But if the problem is allowed to persist, it could jeopardize ozone layer recovery and worsen climate change.

The forbidden emissions, ozone-depleting chemicals grow, said Wednesday a group of scientists, suggesting that someone may secretly produce a pollutant in violation of global agreements. This was confusing as other gases similar to CFC-11 were not being distributed in the same pattern.

Though they do not know who's responsible for the mysterious spike in CFC levels, the wide-spanning NOAA measurements, such as the difference between CFC-11 concentrations on both hemispheres, have hinted that the source might be located somewhere on the northern hemisphere, possibly around Eastern Asia. Under the treaty's requirements, nations have reported less than 500 tons of new CFC-11 production per year since 2010.

The analysis of these extremely precise and accurate atmospheric measurements is an excellent example of the vigilance needed to ensure continued compliance with provisions of the Montreal Protocol and protection of the Earth's ozone layer.
A US observatory in Hawaii found CFC-11 mixed in with other gases that were characteristic of a source coming from somewhere in east Asia, but scientists could not narrow the source down any further.

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