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

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

Scientists have detected an unexpected rise in atmospheric levels of CFC-11, a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) highly damaging to the ozone layer.

"These considerations suggest that the increased CFC-11 emissions arise from new production not reported to UNEP's Ozone Secretariat, which is inconsistent with the agreed phase-out of CFC production in the Montreal Protocol by 2010", the researchers wrote.

The most likely source, according to the study, is from new, unreported production from an unidentified source in East Asia. Today, the "hole in the ozone" over the South Pole is showing clear signs of recovery. We used to employ a lot of it, however, and there are still sources of this gas leaking into the atmosphere (such as old refrigerators in landfills).

However, it took many decades for scientists to discover that when CFCs break down in the atmosphere, they release chlorine atoms that are able to rapidly destroy ozone molecules. "An important question which arises from the conclusions of the paper, if correct, is how compliance with global environmental treaties should be monitored or policed".

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.

As production stalled, existing reservoirs of the chemicals were expected to gradually escape to the atmosphere and diminish.

And so successful has Montreal been that scientists have spoken of a recovery being under way.

But Mr. Doniger noted that the Montreal Protocol, which has been signed by almost 200 countries, has a strong track record of compliance, with countries often reporting their own violations. However, since 2012, this decline has slowed by around 50%. 'The decline in CFC-11 is the graph that we all show in our atmospheric chemistry lectures to illustrate the effectiveness of the ban on CFCs. Under the treaty's requirements, nations have reported less than 500 tons of new CFC-11 production per year since 2010. "I've been making these measurements for more than 30 years, and this is the most surprising thing I've seen", says lead researcher Stephen Montzka at the NOAA, which monitors chemicals in the atmosphere. He further added that he was completely astounded by the findings.

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Atmospheric levels of a key ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) are not going down as fast as they should be, researchers in the United States have discovered. "We know of no production even for intermediary or side products".

They point to the fact that since the production of these chemicals was ended over eight years ago, any industry that was involved in this work would have transitioned to other substances. "There's a reasonable chance we'll figure out what's happening here", he said.

"I hope that somehow the worldwide community can put pressure on South East Asian countries, maybe China, to go and look at whether they can get more information on where the emissions come from".

"They're going to find the culprits".

Nearly no CFC-11 has been been produced since 2006 - or so we thought.

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim, cited by The Guardian newspaper, shares the scholar's concern: "If these emissions continue unabated, they have the potential to slow down the recovery of the ozone layer".

It could also make a contribution to rising global temperatures.

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