Banned ozone-destroying chemical makes a mysterious resurgence

17 May, 2018, 14:58 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Banned Ozone-Harming Gas Creeps Back, Suggesting a Mystery Source

"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 from ozone depletion, '" NOAA scientist Stephen Montzka, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. "I was astounded by it really".

The finding seems likely to prompt an worldwide investigation into the mysterious source. The gas was widely used in aerosol sprays, packing materials, and refrigerants, but due to the ozone hole over Antartica, its production was phased out completely by 2010. "Nevertheless, scientists and policy makes will want to understand the cause of these unexpected CFC-11 emissions".

Durwood Zaelke, who founded the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development said that someone is cheating the law.

The scientists yet have not found out as to who the person is and where the person could be.

The team said the emissions were most likely due to new, unreported production from an unidentified source in East Asia.

Zaelke said he was surprised by the findings, not just because the chemical has always been banned, but also because alternatives already exist, making it hard to imagine what the market for CFC-11 today would be. Their results were published in the journal Nature. As they do, we should see the decline of CFC-11 levels in the atmosphere accelerate.

But they concluded these sources could not explain the increase, which they calculated at about 13 billion grams per year in recent years. Together, this analysis suggested the emissions are coming from east Asia. The CFC-11 was banned under the 1987 Montreal Protocol. Following the introduction of the Montreal Protocol, atmospheric levels fell steadily from 2002 to 2012.

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These could hamper the recovery of the ozone hole and worsen climate change. Another possible explanation, that a lot of old buildings using CFC-11-based ventilation systems were demolished at the same time, was also ruled out, as it didn't plausibly fit the data, according to the team.

"It is not clear why any country would want to start to produce, and inadvertently release, CFC-11, when cost effective substitutes have been available for a long while", Watson continued.

However, if no action is taken on the new source of emissions, it could be highly significant.

Keith Weller, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program, which helps implement the protocol, said the findings would be presented to the parties to the agreement for review.

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 Zaelke thought the finding could promote tougher action. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats. When the ozone layer is weakened, more UV rays can get through and affect humans, making them prone to skin cancer, cataracts and other diseases.

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