Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production

An image provided by NOAA shows the hole in the ozone layer in 2015. NOAA scientists now say emissions of one ozone-depleting chemical appear to be rising even though the chemical has been banned and reported production has essentially been at zero for View Slideshow
Sandy Nunez | 17 May, 2018, 04:00

However, results from the new analysis of NOAA atmospheric measurements show that from 2014 to 2016, emissions of CFC-11 increased by more than 14,000 tons per year to about 65,000 tons per year, or 25 percent above average emissions during 2002 to 2012.

Unless the culprit is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, could be delayed by a decade.

Measurements at remote sites - including the government-run Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii - of the chemical, known as CFC-11, point to East Asia as the source or renewed production.

CFC-11, used primarily for foams, can last up to 50 years in the atmosphere once it is released.

The finding that the destruction of ozone was creating a large "hole" over the Antarctic led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

"The authors pinpoint a new source of CFC-11 to East Asia, breaking Montreal Protocol rules". "I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the most surprising thing I've ever seen", he said.

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

"The ozone layer remains on track to recovery by mid-century", the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said in a statement, reacting to the findings. "It is critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action", he said.

CFCs used in buildings and appliances before the ban came into force still leak into the air today. A research letter published Wednesday in the journal Nature takes a look at the possible causes for the spike.

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Staff at the South Pole get ready to release a balloon that will carry an ozone instrument up to 20 miles in the atmosphere, measuring ozone levels all along the.

Despite the increase in CFC-11 emissions, its concentration in the atmosphere continues to decrease, but only about half as fast as the decline observed a few years ago, and at a substantially slower rate than expected.

Nearly no CFC-11 has been been produced since 2006 - or so we thought. "If it doesn't go away, there could be a 10-year delay, and if it continued to increase, the delay would be even longer".

Unreported production of CFC-11 outside 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, suggests Montzka's team, leads to a disturbing conclusion.

She said: "The study highlights that environmental regulations can not be taken for granted and must be safe-guarded, and that monitoring is required to ensure compliance".

"This is atmospheric detective work at its finest", said Piers Forester, head of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.

Paul Young, at Lancaster University, UK, said: "The Montreal Protocol has been rightly hailed as our most successful global environmental treaty, so the suggestion that there are possibly continued, unreported emissions of CFCs is certainly troubling and needs further investigation". More work will be needed to narrow down the locations of these new emissions, Montzka said. "I have a feeling that we will find out fairly quickly what exactly is going on and that the situation will be remedied", he said.