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Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions

17 May 2018

According to the report, published in Nature and led by Stephen Montzka of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the amount of CFC-11 had gradually been declining over time as countries stopped producing it and what remained in the atmosphere faded out, but its rate of decline sharply decreased over the past year.

"We show that the rate of decline of atmospheric CFC-11 was constant from 2002 to 2012, and then slowed by about 50 percent after 2012", an global team of scientists concluded in a study.

"The authors pinpoint a new source of CFC-11 to East Asia, breaking Montreal Protocol rules". The startling resurgence of the chemical, reported in Nature, will likely spark an global investigation to track down the mysterious source.

At first, the researchers hypothesised that the sudden hike in CFC-11 might be due to the destruction of old buildings containing CFC-11 refrigerants.

Under the Montreal Protocol, the world agreed to begin phasing out CFC-11, ending its production altogether by 2010.

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He calls it "rogue production", adding that if it continues "the recovery of the ozone layer would be threatened".

"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".

Plus, it isn't just CFC-11 that was found to be increasing.

But they concluded these sources could not explain the increase, which they calculated at about 13 billion grams per year in recent years. 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.

"It is therefore imperative that this finding be discussed at the next Ministerial meeting of Governments given recovery of the ozone layer is dependent on all countries complying with the Montreal Protocol (and its adjustments and amendments) with emissions globally dropping to zero".

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David Fahey, director of NOAA " s Chemical Science Division and co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme's Ozone Secretariat 's Science Advisory Panel, said ongoing monitoring of the atmosphere will be key to ensuring that the goal of restoring the ozone layer is achieved.

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects animal and plant life on Earth from powerful UV rays.

But Zaelke thought the finding could promote tougher action.

"They're going to find the culprits".

But in the last few years, it looks like someone has started cheating.

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Montzka said if the source of the new emissions can be identified and contained soon, the damage to the ozone should be minor, but warned if not remedied soon, substantial delays could be caused to the already slow recovery of our protective atmosphere.

Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions