Banned ozone-destroying gas may still be in production


"I was astounded by it really".

However, a study recently published in Nature reveals that CFC-11 production may be happening somewhere in the world despite the Montreal Protocol. But with emissions on the rise, scientists suspect someone is making the chemical in defiance of the ban. "There's some slight possibility there's an unintentional release, but. they make it clear there's strong evidence this is actually being produced".

The scientists yet have not found out as to who the person is and where the person could be.

Zaelke said he was surprised by the findings, not just because the chemical has always been banned, but also because alternatives already exist, making it hard to imagine what the market for CFC-11 today would be.

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Montzka said his team from NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands became "detectives of the atmosphere" to try to determine the cause of the increased levels of CFC-11. Movement of gases around the atmosphere, the destruction of buildings harboring CFCs from the 1970s and the failure to capture the chemical during the production of other chemicals could all lead to a rise in CFC-11, but not almost enough to explain the results. It is thought that about 13,000 tonnes a year has been released since 2013.

Rogue production, the scientists wrote, seemed to be the best explanation. Once widely used as a foaming agent, production of CFC-11 was phased out by the Montreal Protocol in 2010.

"In the end, we concluded that it's most likely that someone may be producing the CFC-11 that's escaping to the atmosphere", he said in a press release. This produces chlorine, which destroys ozone molecules. That loss of ozone, in turn, weakens our protection from UV radiation at the Earth's surface.

According to global CFC-11 levels measured by scientists at NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the concentration of the chemical declined at an accelerating rate till 2002, but then, the fall became stagnant for nearly a decade. They found that the difference in CFC-11 concentrations between the northern and southern hemispheres has been increasing, which points to a northern hemisphere source.

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But Mr. Doniger noted that the Montreal Protocol, which has been signed by almost 200 countries, has a strong track record of compliance, with countries often reporting their own violations.

If not, then it will take substantially longer than anticipated for the ozone layer to recover. The statement also takes note of the importance of identifying the source of the emission increase, and taking the necessary actions against it.

Unreported production of CFC-11 outside of certain specific carve-out purposes in the treaty would be a "violation of worldwide 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.

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