The Rise of the CFC — An Atmospheric Spy Thriller

“It appears that emissions of CFC-11 have increased in recent years, which is quite a surprise given the fact that production has been phased out — reportedly.  I think it’s the most surprising thing I’ve seen in my 27 years of making measurements of trace gases in the atmosphere.”

Stephen Montzka — NOAA scientist 

Data from an NOAA study shows that emissions of CFC-11 — as calculated using two different models — rose after 2012, even though production was supposedly phased out.  (NOAA)

A real life Dr EVIL is producing thousands of tons of a banned chemical, threatening the recovery of Earth’s badly damaged ozone layer. Scientists believe that industrial amounts of CFC-11 are illegally produced ‘somewhere’ in the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps in Eastern Asia since 2012. Notice the irony. Porton Down and OPCW scientists can trace the origin of a few nano-grams of ‘novichok’ to a Russian laboratory in just a few days. But, after 6 years, nobody has identified the production site(s) of thousands of tons of a life-threatening banned chemical. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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According to a study, published in Nature on Wednesday (May 16 2018), the atmospheric level of trichlorofluoromethane — also known as CFC-11 — is not declining as quickly as expected.

Scientists with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe that someone is producing tons of CFC-11, a ozone-depleting chemical banned by the Montreal Protocol. The Treaty was agreed on 16 September 1987, and entered into force on 1 January 1989.

“A simple model analysis of our findings suggests an increase in CFC-11 emissions of 13 ± 5 giga-grams per year (25 ± 13 per cent) since 2012, despite reported production being close to zero since 2006. “

The illicit emissions are probably coming from ‘somewhere in Eastern Asia’, but nothing else is known about the offender.

Based on an analysis of measurements from 12 different sites, the scientists concluded that CFC-11 emissions started to increase after 2012.

The U.N. Ozone Secretariat says it is critical to “identify the causes of these emissions and take necessary action.”

“It is important to note that these findings also highlight the efficacy of the Montreal Protocol, its institutions and mechanisms, with science at their core.

So long as scientists remain vigilant, new production or emission of ozone-depleting chemicals will not go unnoticed.”

Emissions of ozone-eating chemical rising

REFERENCES

NOAA finds rising emissions of ozone-destroying chemical banned by Montreal Protocol — University of Colorado at Boulder

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The Rise of the CFC — An Atmospheric Spy Thriller

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