Research

Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions

Mysterious rise in CFC11 emissions

Use of the chemical was banned in 2010 via the Montreal Protocol, an worldwide agreement made to protect the environment.

"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".

Officially, the production of CFC-11 should be near zero or nearly zero - at least, those are the countries that cooperate with the United Nations body that monitors and ensures compliance with the Montreal Protocol.

Scientists have carefully monitored the progress and measured chemical compound of the planet's atmosphere. And good thing they did.

"We're raising a flag to the global community to say, 'This is what's going on, and it is taking us away from timely recovery of the ozone layer, '" said Stephen Montzka of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the scientist who led the new research. This chemical - previously used as a solvent, a refrigerant, as a precursor in styrofoam production, and a propellant in spray cans - is now banned for production under the protocol.

CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of CFCs that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s.

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But in 2012 scientists noted that the rate of decline had slowed by 50 per cent, according to the new study. Some early systems might be having a CFC-11 leak but such systems should slowly vanish so that the concentration of the chemical in the atmosphere diminishes over time.

Image credits Montzaka et al. Reports previous year indicated that production of new chlorine containing chemicals could cause significant delay. Some of these, however, could be ruled out quite easily: the first was whether weather-pattern-induced movements of CFCs in the stratosphere caused the observed variations.

Zaelke said that the study surprised him not only because CFC-11 has been banned since long but also due to the reason that there are alternatives of the chemical available in the market. The concentration of these gases has always been higher in the (more developed, more industrialized) Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern one. 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. However, the CFC-11 showed a relatively less drop of about 1.0 part-per-trillion each year in between the year 2015 and the year 2017.

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

While the new analysis can't definitively explain why emissions of CFC11 are increasing, but Montzka suspects covert production.

The emissions are a direct violation of the Montreal Protocol.


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