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Mystery Source of Ozone-Destroying Chemical Emissions Linked to China

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Since 1989, the Montreal Protocol has been the international treaty agreement that has protected the Earth’s ozone layer from harmful chemicals emitted into the atmosphere. By in large, it has been quite successful, seriously limiting or even completely halting the use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

However, scientists made a startling discovery last year when a harmful chemical called CFC-11 was causing severe damage to the ozone layer, reversing years of recovery. For more than a year, scientists scrambled to determine the mysterious source of this emission, and now, it has been determined that a region in eastern China is the culprit. Thanks to a study published in Nature, researchers have been able to pinpoint this area, which will help Chinese authorities to determine the exact sources and stop the emissions of this deadly chemical.

CFC-11 is used in refrigeration and the production of foams. Thanks to an increased effort in the international community, emissions have been drastically reduced. Phase-out efforts and the gathering and destroying of materials used to create CFC-11 was successful in cutting nearly all emissions. But back in 2012, rogue emissions began to be detected.

By monitoring air stations in Japan and Korea, researchers were able to show that China’s overall CFC-11 emissions went from an average of 6.4 gigagrams per year from 2008 – 2012 to 13.4 gigagrams per year from 2014 – 2017. This research was corroborated by a report by The New York Times, which linked Chinese factories to increased emissions of CFC-11, due to its lower costs.

The report mentions that if emissions continue to proceed at current levels, the ozone hole could increase to early 1980s levels. Due to its potency, CFC-11 has 5,000 times the warming potential as carbon dioxide, making it a serious driver in climate change as well.

China has promised to work towards cracking down on rogue emissions. Last November, several suspects were arrested in a Chinese province after being caught with more than 30 tonnes of CFC-11.

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