Scientists uncover likely cheating on ozone treaty

17 May, 2018, 09:14 | Author: Sally Reid
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Nearly no CFC-11 has been been produced since 2006 - or so we thought.

Officially, production of CFC-11 is supposed to be at or near zero - at least, that is what countries have been telling the United Nations body that monitors and enforces the Protocol.

As a result of the controls, CFC11 concentrations have declined by 15% from peak levels measured in 1993.

CFC11 is the second-most abundant ozone-depleting gas in the atmosphere because of its long life and continuing emissions from a large reservoir of the chemical in foam building insulation and appliances manufactured before the mid-1990s.

"It's the most surprising and unexpected observation I've made in my 27 years" of measurements, said study lead author Stephen Montzka, a research chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This treaty saw the production of CFCs, including CFC-11, banned in developed countries in the mid 1990s and in the rest of the world by 2010.

The protocol was a huge success, slowly shrinking the giant hole that forms over Antarctica each September. The researchers warn that continued production of the gas could delay recovery of the ozone layer.

The forbidden emissions, ozone-depleting chemicals grow, said Wednesday a group of scientists, suggesting that someone may secretly produce a pollutant in violation of worldwide agreements. It is thought that about 13,000 tonnes a year has been released since 2013.

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High in the atmosphere, ozone shields Earth from ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. 'The increase in emission of CFC-11 appears unrelated to past production; this suggests unreported new production, which is inconsistent with the Montreal Protocol, ' Montzka and colleagues conclude.

Researchers say their evidence shows it's likely that new, illegal emissions of CFC-11 are coming from East Asia. Together, this analysis suggested the emissions are coming from east Asia.

"If these emissions continue unabated, they have the potential to slow down the recovery of the ozone layer", Weller said in a statement. The researchers have said they would need more measurements to figure the exact location of the source and take necessary action.

Unreported production of CFC-11 outside of 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.

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

"Knowing how much time and effort and resources have gone into healing the ozone layer, and to see this is a shocker, frankly", said Montzka.

The situation got even worse in the years after 2012 when the rate of CFC decline slowed by 50 percent, which could have only been possible due to an increase in CFC emissions.

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