China behind new ozone issues

26 Mai, 2019, 01:09 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • China blamed for surge in ozone-depleting emissions

But a study a year ago found that the ozone layer is unexpectedly declining in the lower stratosphere over the planet's populated tropical and mid-latitude regions.

The team reported that the figures show that the emissions from the area had increased dramatically in the past years, accounting for around 40 to 60 percent of the global increase.

CFCs, formally known as chlorofluorocarbons, were banned after it was found they destroyed the Earth's ozone layer.

This new study says this is mostly being caused by new gas production in eastern provinces of China.

What's more alarming was that the spikes had increased since 2013, indicating that there had been an increase in emission somewhere in the region.

The latest investigation, published on May 22 by researchers from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Britain's University of Bristol, was able to pinpoint the source of the emissions to northeast China by analysing atmospheric data gathered from South Korea and Japan.

"When the wind is blowing in a straight line from that source to the measuring station, you see a spike", said atmospheric scientist Matt Rigby, lead author of the study from University of Bristol. "Emissions between 2014 and 2017 were around 7,000 tonnes per year higher than during 2008 to 2012". CFC-11 consumption has been banned in developed countries since 1996, and worldwide since 2010. "We didn't find evidence of increasing emissions from Japan, the Korean peninsula or any other country to which our networks are sensitive".

In the 1980's, countries from all corners of the map came together to sign the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, a treaty created to reduce the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and similar chemicals, typically used in fridges and foams that had the side effect of destroying Earth's ozone layer.

The possibility that CFCs are being released into the atmosphere by the demolition or renovation of old buildings, or new construction using old stockpiles of construction materials that incorporated the chemicals, was also considered and discarded.

It has to be noted that until the 1980s CFCs were widely used in industries and to make a refrigerant and foam insulation.

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But a report past year by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) claimed dozens of Chinese companies were still using the banned CFC-11 in the production of polyurethane foam.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said late on Thursday it had paid close attention to the unexpected rise in global CFC-11 levels reported previous year.

Suspicions were strengthened when authorities subsequently shut down some of these facilities without explanation.

A chemical banned around the globe for the last 30 years has made an unfortunate resurgence.

This substance is about 5,000 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Rising emissions could prevent ozone from returning to normal levels, scientists warn.

"If emissions do not decline, it will delay the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, possibly for decades", said Paul Fraser, an honorary fellow the CSIRO Climate Science Centre in Australia.

CFC-11 persists in the atmosphere for about half a century, and still contributes about a quarter of all chlorine - the chemical that triggers the breakdown of ozone - reaching the stratosphere. According to current estimates, the ozone layer is directly responsible for screening out mid-frequency ultraviolet light waves to the tune of 97 to 99 percent.

Today, the "hole in the ozone" over the South Pole is showing clear signs of recovery.

That study identified two possible culprits: industrial chemicals not covered by the Montreal Protocol called "very short-lived substances" (VSLSs), and climate change.

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