Unknown source ramps up ozone-destroying CFC production

Unknown source ramps up ozone-destroying CFC production

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. CFC-11 was once commonly used in insulating foams, but it's now banned under the Montreal Protocol and reported production is close to zero.

An ozone-destroying chemical that has been banned for 20 years is on the rise. The growth in the size of the ozone "hole" over Antarctica has slowed.

The Montreal Protocol has been effective in reducing ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere because all countries in the world agreed to legally binding controls on the production of most human-produced gases known to destroy ozone.

Today, the "hole in the ozone" over the South Pole is showing clear signs of recovery.

These could hamper the recovery of the ozone hole and worsen climate change. Reports past year indicated that production of new chlorine containing chemicals could cause significant delay. In 2012, however, the rate of decline suddenly reduced by about 50% - indicating that new source of production had started up.

In 2013, plumes of air containing elevated levels of CFC-11 were detected at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.

"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 from ozone depletion, '" said NOAA scientist Stephen Montzka, lead author of the paper, which has co-authors from CIRES, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

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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.

The researchers show that CFC-11 levels, measured at a number of remote monitoring sites around the world, decreased in line with expectations between 2002 and 2011. Even just the publicity about the new CFC-11 production could lead to its shutdown, he said: "Somebody who was maybe doing it purposefully will realise - oh, someone is paying attention - and stop doing it". "We don't know why they might be doing that and if it is being made for some specific objective, or inadvertently as a side product of some other chemical process".

"It's disappointing, I would not have expected it to happen", said Dr Michaela Hegglin from Reading University, UK, who was not involved in the study. "They should tell the industries that's not going to work".

The researchers said that the less rapid decline of CFC-11 could prevent ozone from returning to normal levels, or at least as quickly as hoped. This conclusion was confirmed by other changes recorded in NOAA's measurements during the same period, such as a widening difference between CFC-11 concentrations in the northern and southern hemispheres - evidence that the new source was somewhere north of the equator.

"If the emissions were to persist, then we could imagine that healing of the ozone layer, that recovery date, could be delayed by a decade", said Dr Montzka.

With the global community agreeing further, significant phase-outs in Kigali, in 2016, the researchers say early-warning, air-monitoring systems will be an essential part of the future policing of emissions.

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