May 27, 2018

Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions

17 May 2018, 06:45 | Lucia Cruz

Banned Ozone-Harming Gas Creeps Back, Suggesting a Mystery Source

The loss of ozone is weakening protection from UV rays on the planet and CFC-11 is also a powerful greenhouse gas causing global warming

The researchers' modelling indicates that since 2012 CFC-11 pumped into the atmosphere has increased by 13 gigagrams - 13,000 tonnes - per year. "In fact, I was amazed by this". The startling resurgence of the chemical, reported in Nature, will likely spark an worldwide investigation to track down the mysterious source.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol phased out ozone-damaging chemicals like CFC-11 worldwide.

Emissions of one of the chemicals most responsible for the Antarctic ozone hole are on the rise, despite an global treaty that required an end to its production in 2010, a new NOAA study shows. However, that decrease is significantly slower than it would be without the new CFC emissions.

If you thought the crisis over the gaping hole in the ozone layer was under control, prepare to be disappointed.

However, a study recently published in Nature reveals that CFC-11 production may be happening somewhere in the world despite the Montreal Protocol. It is only destroyed in the stratosphere, some 9 to 18 miles above the planet's surface, where the resulting chlorine molecules engage in a string of ozone-destroying chemical reactions.

And while the treaty has typically been abided by over the years, as evident by the gradually reforming ozone, a team of researchers found evidence that somebody is producing large amounts of CFC-11 without telling anybody.

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Two years after the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic in 1985, the Montreal Protocol was signed, an global treaty which introduced restrictions on the production of CFCs.

The issue involves a gas called CFC-11, a chlorofluorocarbon that contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer.

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

The UNEP said that is was "critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action".

"This treaty can not afford not to follow its tradition and keep its compliance record", he said. "They should tell the industries that's not going to work".

But in the last few years, it looks like someone has started cheating. "That's a tough group of people". But if the problem is allowed to persist, it could jeopardize ozone layer recovery and worsen climate change. Even more unexpected was that the rate of decline slowed by 50 percent after 2012. This, in turn, will delay the ozone layer's recovery, and in the meantime leave it more vulnerable to other threats. Though concentrations of CFC11 in the atmosphere are still declining, they're declining more slowly than they would if there were no new sources, Montzka said.

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