Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

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

Banned Ozone Destroying Gas Back on the Rise Warn Scientists Pixabay
Elijah Vega | 17 May, 2018, 02:25

The increase in emission of CFC-11 appears unrelated to past production; this suggests unreported new production, which is inconsistent with the Montreal Protocol agreement to phase out global CFC production by 2010. "Further work is needed to figure out exactly why emissions of CFC-11 are increasing and if something can be done about it soon".

Widely used in 1970s and 1980s as propellant in aerosol sprays, as well as in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, CFCs do not exist in nature.

Because CFC-11 still accounts for one-quarter of all chlorine present in today's stratosphere, expectations for the ozone hole to heal by mid-century depend on an accelerating decline of CFC-11 in the atmosphere as its emissions diminish- which should happen with no new CFC-11 production.

Banned by the Montreal Protocol in 1987, CFC-11 was seen to be declining as expected but that fall has slowed down by 50% since 2012.

"Emissions today are about the same as it was almost 20 years ago", he said. This means that the total concentration of ozone-depleting chemicals, overall, is still decreasing in the atmosphere. Rather, the evidence "strongly suggests" a new source of emissions, the scientists wrote.

The new study published on Wednesday shows that, as expected, the rate of decline of concentrations of CFC-11 observed was constant between 2002 and 2012.

It is possible that the increased emissions could be due to older buildings being demolished, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

The Montreal Protocol has been effective in reducing ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere because all countries in the world agreed to legally binding controls on the production of most human-produced gases known to destroy ozone.

An ozone-destroying chemical that has been banned for 20 years is on the rise.

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There is a small chance that there is a more innocent explanation for the rise in CFC-11 emissions, the scientists say.

"You are left with, boy, it really looks like somebody is making it new", said Montzka, who noted that the less damaging replacement for CFC-11 is more expensive to make.

The paper's findings are "environmentally and politically quite serious", Robert Watson, a former NASA scientist who organized bracing flights high into the Antarctic stratosphere to study ozone depletion in the 1980s, said in an emailed statement. Emissions of this CFC to the atmosphere reached about 386,000 tons per year at their peak later in the decade.

The findings of Montzka and his team of researchers from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, represent the first time that emissions of one of the three most abundant, long-lived CFCs have increased for a sustained period since production controls took effect in the late 1980s.

Thought the ozone layer was safe?

A study earlier this year found that the ozone layer is unexpectedly declining in the lower stratosphere - 10 to 24 kilometres above sea level - over the planet's populated tropical and mid-latitude regions.

The Montreal Protocol, signed by more than 200 countries and generally regarded as having a good record of compliance, is created to protect the Earth's ozone layer.

Keith Weller, a spokesman for the U.N. Environment Program, which administers the Montreal Protocol, said the findings would have to be verified by the scientific panel to the protocol and then would be put before the treaty's member countries.

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