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17 May 2018, 11:13 | Ross Houston
Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions
If the source of these emissions can be identified and mitigated soon, the damage to the ozone layer should be minor.
The measurements suggested that there was a new, unreported source of CFC-11, which was previously used as a cooling agent in refrigerators and as a propellant in spray cans as well as in the production of styrofoam.
The finding seems likely to prompt an global investigation into the mysterious source.
Researchers say their evidence shows it's likely that new, illegal emissions of CFC-11 are coming from East Asia.
This treaty saw the production of CFCs, including CFC-11, banned in developed countries in the mid 1990s and in the rest of the world by 2010.
CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of CFCs that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.
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.
They considered a range of alternative explanations for the growth, such as a change in atmospheric patterns that gradually remove CFC gases in the stratosphere, an increase in the rate of demolition of buildings containing old residues of CFC-11, or accidental production. Scientists have detected a 25% uptick in emissions of CFC-11-an ozone-destroying chemical-since 2012.
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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 1987 Montreal Protocol banned industrial aerosols such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were chemically dissolving ozone, especially above Antarctica.
However, a new study published this week in the journal Nature revealed that contrary to what is expected upon the banning of CFC-11 production, the harmful emissions are on the rise again, as the rate of CFC-11 decline in the atmosphere has been cut by 50 percent since 2012.
"The newer substances that are out there, the replacements for CFC-11, might be more hard or expensive for some countries to produce or get at". Under the treaty's requirements, nations have reported less than 500 tons of new CFC-11 production per year since 2010.
"This treaty can not afford not to follow its tradition and keep its compliance record", he said. "That's a tough group of people".
"A timely recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer depends on a sustained decline of CFC-11 concentrations", the wrote. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats.
But "continued increase in global CFC-11 emissions will put that progress at risk".
"Knowing how much time and effort and resources have gone into healing the ozone layer, and to see this is a shocker, frankly", said Montzka.
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