Banned ozone-destroying chemical makes a mysterious resurgence

Banned Ozone-Harming Gas Creeps Back, Suggesting a Mystery Source

The new study has found that from 2014 to 2016, emissions of CFC-11 have increased by 25 percent above the average measured from 2002 to 2012, slowing the decline of the chemical by 50 percent from 2012.

The amount of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) in the atmosphere has been sinking more slowly since 2012 than should be expected, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado wrote. "I was astounded by it really". The startling resurgence of the chemical, reported in Nature, will likely spark an global investigation to track down the mysterious source.

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. But with emissions on the rise, scientists suspect someone is making the chemical in defiance of the ban.

But for now, the scientists don't know exactly who, or where, that person would be. Their results were published in the journal Nature.

"In the end, we concluded that it's most likely that someone may be producing the CFC-11 that's escaping to the atmosphere".

Because CFC-11 still accounts for one-quarter of all chlorine present in today's stratosphere, expectations for the ozone hole to heal by mid-century depend on an accelerating decline of CFC-11 in the atmosphere as its emissions diminish-which should happen with no new CFC-11 production. Reports past year indicated that production of new chlorine containing chemicals could cause significant delay.

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.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned industrial aerosols such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were chemically dissolving ozone, especially above Antarctica. That loss of ozone, in turn, weakens our protection from UV radiation at the Earth's surface.

Banned Ozone-Harming Gas Creeps Back, Suggesting a Mystery Source

It could also make a contribution to rising global temperatures.

But there a growing scientific doubts about the progress of healing in the ozone hole.

"The newer substances that are out there, the replacements for CFC-11, might be more hard or expensive for some countries to produce or get at".

"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".

However, if no action is taken on the new source of emissions, it could be highly significant. Use of the chemical was banned in 2010 via the Montreal Protocol, an worldwide agreement made to protect the environment.

"They're going to find the culprits".

But in the last few years, it looks like someone has started cheating. "That's a tough group of people". That speculation is due to increased CFC-11 emissions, a big issue that could delay ozone restoration efforts and contribute to a warming planet.

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