Banned Ozone-Destroying Gases Are Coming From China, Scientists Say

Katie Ramirez
May 25, 2019

CFC-11 is used in refrigeration and the production of foams.

But scientists have seen a big slowdown in the rate of depletion over the past six years.

But the study showed the decline had slowed substantially since 2012 - implying someone was releasing new production of the banned chemical, the study said.

So when scientists discovered in 1985 that there was a hole in it over Antarctica and Australia, it was very unsettling news. In 1987, the USA and about two-dozen other countries signed the Montreal Protocol, which agreed to phase out the use of CFCs. [Image: courtesy of AGAGE/CSIRO] But bucking the long-term trend, a unusual signal began to emerge in 2013: The rate of decline of the second most abundant CFC was slowing.

Although atmospheric levels of CFC-11 have fallen since the protocol was signed, United States scientists revealed previous year that the rate at which it is declining appears to be slowing down. Hints in the data available at the time suggested that eastern Asia accounted for some unknown fraction of the global increase, but it was not clear where exactly these emissions came from. The treaty has led to "a significant reduction" in harmful gases such as CFC-11, which then allowed the damaged ozone layer to heal, according to a report by Canadian newspaper National Post.

What did investigators find on the ground?

The teams says that further investigation is needed to identify the remaining sources.

CFCs used to be common in refrigerators, aerosol cans and dry cleaning chemicals.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China's domestic sales used the illegal gas. Emissions between 2014 and 2017 were around 7,000 tonnes per year higher than during 2008 to 2012.

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"This new study is based on spikes in the data on air that comes from China", lead author Dr Matt Rigby, a reader at the University of Bristol, told BBC Inside Science. The main reason behind this is the foam insulation factories in large number in China. In terms of the impact on climate, the new emissions are roughly equivalent to the annual CO₂ emissions of London.

The researcher are not sure.

It also said it was increasing its efforts to phase out other such chemicals. No wonder the ozone process is often held up as a model of how the worldwide community could work together to tackle climate change.

Rigby also mentions that CFC-11 is a greenhouse gas, about "5,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the climate".

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, explained that the report narrows down the sources and locations of CFC-11 emissions and this fact alone should put pressure on China to curtail rogue emissions.

The Chinese say they have already started to clampdown on production by what the term "rogue manufacturers". Last November, several suspects were arrested in a Chinese province after being caught with more than 30 tonnes of CFC-11.

Clare Perry from the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) said that the new findings re-affirmed the need to stamp out production. They also showed that this increase comes mainly from the north-eastern provinces of Shandong and Hebei, and concluded that they are probably the result of new CFC-11 production.

"Unless the production of the chemical is shut down it will be near impossible to end the use and emissions in the foam companies".

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