Unexpected increase in emissions of banned ozone-destroying chemical shocks scientists


Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that CFC-11 emissions have gone up 25 percent since 2012, although the worldwide community agreed to end production of all chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by 2010 as part of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. However, a new study has found that emissions of a type of CFC has spiked by a shocking 25 percent since 2012, reports the Washington Post.

31 year ago, the importance of the ozone layer led the global community to sign the Montreal Protocol agreement on substances harmful to the ozone layer, with the aim of regulating this type of compound.

The USA ceased production in 1996 and other countries agreed to phase out CFC production by 2010. Other gases haven't followed the same pattern, the authors add, suggesting that the increase in CFC-11 emissions come from somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere. The substance was previously widely used as a foaming agent and is considered to be the main chemical responsible for the giant hole in the ozone layer in Antarctica discovered in the 1980s.

But "continued increase in global CFC-11 emissions will put that progress at risk".

"The increase in emission of CFC-11 appears unrelated to past production; this suggests unreported new production", the study notes. "So long as scientists remain vigilant, new production or emission of ozone depleting chemicals will not go unnoticed", said the statement. Concurrent with this slow down in the decline was an increase of CFC-11 emissions between 2014 and 2016. 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. Over the last few years, the team reports, this discrepancy between the two hemispheres has become more pronounced.

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Measurements taken at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii also show that CFC-11 isn't the only anthropic pollutant that's seeing an uptick roughly since the year 2000.

CFC-11 concentrations have declined by 15 percent from peak levels measured in 1993 as a result. "This may trigger some delay within the restoration of the ozone layer from previous depletion, however that restoration will nonetheless occur".

What is even more troubling is that scientists are not sure at present why emissions of this gas are increasing.

Ozone acts as an essential element in the atmosphere, a natural protective layer at high altitudes against ultraviolet radiation harmful to humans and plants but CFC emissions are ozone-depleting gas emissions that affect the layer and accelerate the climate change. If the source can be identified and controlled soon, they said, the damage to the ozone layer "should be minor".

"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.