Levels of Banned Ozone-Eating Chemical Mysteriously On the Rise

Banned Ozone Destroying Gas Back on the Rise Warn Scientists

17 May, 2018

A team of researchers unveiled on Wednesday that a chemical known to be depleting the ozone layer that was banned previously is being secretly used somewhere by someone. Signatories have taken it upon themselves to monitor CFC production and report it back to the United Nation group which oversees the protocol's implementation.

CFC-11 still contributes about a quarter of all chlorine - the chemical that triggers the breakdown of ozone - reaching the stratosphere.

"Somebody's cheating", said Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and an expert on the Montreal Protocol, in a comment on the new research. Movement of gases around the atmosphere, the destruction of buildings harboring CFCs from the 1970s and the failure to capture the chemical during the production of other chemicals could all lead to a rise in CFC-11, but not almost enough to explain the results.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol phased out ozone-damaging chemicals like CFC-11 worldwide. Rather, the evidence "strongly suggests" a new source of emissions, the scientists wrote. That loss of ozone, in turn, weakens our protection from UV radiation at the Earth's surface.

This scenario has really distressed the scientists who had acknowledged the ban as a success story of environmental protection.

According to global CFC-11 levels measured by scientists at NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the concentration of the chemical declined at an accelerating rate till 2002, but then, the fall became stagnant for nearly a decade. Reports a year ago indicated that production of new chlorine containing chemicals could cause significant delay.

To put that in perspective, production of CFC-11, marketed under the trade name Freon, peaked at about 430,000 tons per year in the 1980s.

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

"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 NOAA scientist Stephen Montzka, the study's lead author.

Unreported production of CFC-11 outside of certain specific carve-out purposes in the treaty would be a "violation of global law", Weller confirmed, though he said that the Protocol is "non-punitive" and the remedy would probably involve a negotiation with the offending party, or country.

"This treaty can not afford not to follow its tradition and keep its compliance record", he said. "A delay in ozone recovery [.] is anticipated, with an overall importance depending on the trajectory of CFC-11 emissions and concentrations in the future".

The situation got even worse in the years after 2012 when the rate of CFC decline slowed by 50 percent, which could have only been possible due to an increase in CFC emissions.

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

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