Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production

Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production

Just last November, I've had the pleasure to report that, according to NASA's measurements, 30 years of global effort and cooperation were doing the ozone layer some good.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Colorado has alarmed the global community with their discovery of increased emissions of an ozone-depleting chemical, whose production was banned worldwide almost ten years ago. "In fact, I was amazed by this".

It's a distressing result for what's widely seen as a global environmental success story, in which nations - alarmed by a growing "ozone hole" - collectively took action to phase out chlorofluorocarbons. The startling resurgence of the chemical, reported in Nature, will likely spark an worldwide investigation to track down the mysterious source. CFC-11, used as a refrigerant, is considered the second most damaging of the chemicals phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, The US stopped making it in 1996 and worldwide production had reached nearly zero by 2007.

However, a new study published this week in the journal Nature revealed that contrary to what is expected upon the banning of CFC-11 production, the harmful emissions are on the rise again, as the rate of CFC-11 decline in the atmosphere has been cut by 50 percent since 2012. "There's a reasonable chance we'll figure out what's happening here", he said. That loss of ozone, in turn, weakens our protection from UV radiation at the Earth's surface.

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A team of researchers unveiled on Wednesday that a chemical known to be depleting the ozone layer that was banned previously is being secretly used somewhere by someone.

Last fall, it was reported that the hole in the Earth's ozone layer had shrunk to its smallest size since 1988, which was great news. Another possible explanation, that a lot of old buildings using CFC-11-based ventilation systems were demolished at the same time, was also ruled out, as it didn't plausibly fit the data, according to the team. He calls it "rogue production", adding that if it continues, "the recovery of the ozone layer would be threatened".

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

"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". "That's a tough group of people". If not remedied soon, however, substantial delays in ozone layer recovery could be expected. Afterward, however, the decline actually started to slow down: between 2015 and 2017, CFC-11 levels in the atmosphere dropped by only 1.0 ppt per year. 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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