Atmospheric levels of a key ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) are not going down as fast as they should be, researchers in the USA have discovered.
The Montreal Protocol, which was finalised in 1987, was a revolutionary, worldwide agreement to phase out the production of CFCs, kind of like the modern day Paris accord. 'The slower decline in CFC-11 means a delay in recovery, and as CFC-11 is a strong greenhouse gas this [will also contribute] to more global warming'.
By 2010, the production of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), the second most abundant CFC controlled by the Montreal Protocol, was believed to be completely halted.
But in the last few years, it looks like someone has started cheating.
However, results from the new analysis of NOAA atmospheric measurements show that from 2014 to 2016, emissions of CFC-11 increased by more than 14,000 tons per year to about 65,000 tons per year, or 25% above average emissions during 2002 to 2012.
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"I've been making these measurements for more than 30 years, and this is the most surprising thing I've seen", says lead researcher Stephen Montzka at the NOAA, which monitors chemicals in the atmosphere.
"Emissions today are about the same as it was almost 20 years ago".
It is possible that the increased emissions could be due to older buildings being demolished, but that doesn't seem to be the case. But the data just didn't match up. "Further work is needed to figure out exactly why emissions of CFC11 are increasing, and if something can be done about it soon". "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".
CFC-11 still contributes about a quarter of all chlorine - the chemical that triggers the breakdown of ozone - reaching the stratosphere. This was confusing as other gases similar to CFC-11 were not being distributed in the same pattern.
The damage caused to the ozone layer is especially alarming since the global production of the chemical causing it is supposed to be at or near zero.
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Plus, it isn't just CFC-11 that was found to be increasing. They are making it a priority to pinpoint the source of the emissions, which may require research flights over Asia. Researchers suspect the spike in the ozone damaging chemical is coming from somewhere in eastern Asia. It is thought that about 13,000 tonnes a year has been released since 2013.
The Montreal Protocol has proven to be innovative and successful, and is the first treaty to achieve universal ratification by all countries in the world.
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". However, that decrease is significantly slower than it would be without the new CFC emissions.
The measurements suggested that there was a new, unreported source of CFC-11, which was previously used as a cooling agent in refrigerators and as a propellant in spray cans as well as in the production of styrofoam.
This article was originally published by Science As Fact.
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