Emissions of a banned, ozone-depleting chemical are on the rise, a group of scientists reported Wednesday, suggesting someone may be secretly manufacturing the pollutant in violation of an worldwide accord. CFC-11 was once commonly used in insulating foams, but it's now banned under the Montreal Protocol and reported production is close to zero.
"I do measurement for more than 30 years, and this is the most unbelievable thing I have seen, said Steven Monda (Stephen Montzka), a scientist from the National oceanic and atmospheric administration, who led this work".
Emissions of one of the chemicals most responsible for the Antarctic ozone hole are on the rise, despite an global treaty that required an end to its production in 2010, a new NOAA study shows.
The growth in the size of the ozone "hole" over Antarctica has slowed.
Although Montzka and his colleagues could not pinpoint the exact location of the new emissions, some of their observations and models offer clues as to where they might be coming from.
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The forbidden emissions, ozone-depleting chemicals grow, said Wednesday a group of scientists, suggesting that someone may secretly produce a pollutant in violation of worldwide agreements.
Another key question is whether there could be another explanation for a slower decline in CFC-11 post-2012, such as a change in the rate of chemical processes such as UV photolysis that break down CFC-11 in the stratosphere, or an increase in emissions from CFC "banks" - reservoirs that persist in old equipment and products that are still in use.
The chemical is also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Measurements at remote sites - including the government-run Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii - of the chemical, known as CFC-11, point to East Asia as the source or renewed production.
David Doniger, director of the climate and clean energy program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group in Washington, said the new emissions were "bad for the ozone layer and bad for climate change".
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Watson suggested that aircraft flights might be necessary to better identify the source of the emissions.
"The analysis of these extremely precise and accurate atmospheric measurements is an excellent example of the vigilance needed to ensure continued compliance with provisions of the Montreal Protocol and protection of the Earth's ozone layer", Fahey said.
If the study is verified, this would be a clear violation of the Montreal Protocol.
"This treaty can not afford not to follow its tradition and keep its compliance record", he said. In 2012, however, the rate of decline suddenly reduced by about 50% - indicating that new source of production had started up.
"They're going to find the culprits". If not remedied soon, however, substantial delays in ozone layer recovery could be expected.
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"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".