Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Beijing, China (4E) – As widely suspected, China is the source of the sudden surge in emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that’s destroying the ozone layer protecting humans by absorbing most of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals have been banned since September 1987 by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, or the Montreal Protocol, signed by all member states of the United Nations. Last month, A group of scientists reported that an Asian country is manufacturing ozone-depleting CFCs in violation of the Montreal Protocol.
A U.S. observatory in Hawaii found dangerous CFC-11 mixed in with other gases that were characteristic of a source coming from somewhere in eastern Asia. That source has now been confirmed as China.
CFC-11, which is widely used as a refrigerant, is the CFC that inflicts the most damage on the ozone layer. It has an ozone depletion potential (ODP) of 1.0, which is the highest destructive level.
CFC-11 is used primarily as a foam, and can last up to 50 years in the atmosphere once released. It’s also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming
The new CFC-11 emissions detected in 2017 by Western scientists is likely being emitted by illegal refrigerator factories in China, Media reports said the owners of these CFC-11 factories claim no one told them the chemical is banned by the 1987 Montreal Protocol.
These Chinese factory owners also told government investigators they’ve been buying CFC-11 because it’s cheaper than the legal alternative, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are in short supply in China. “You had a choice. Choose the cheaper foam agent that’s not so good for the environment, or the expensive one that’s better for the environment,” said Zhang Wenbo, who owns a factory that uses CFC-11. “Of course, we chose the cheaper foam agent. That’s how we survived.”
Western experts said China’s “quite vigorous illegal production” of the banned chemical is “bringing risks to the market and environment.” The findings were “nothing short of an environmental crime which demands decisive action,” said Erik Solheim, Head of the United Nations Environment Program. Solheim, however, believes other countries might also be producing CFC-11.
Scientists said about 13 billion grams per year of CFC was released into the atmosphere in recent years, which “strongly suggests” the new source of emissions is man-made. Emissions of CFC-11 have risen 25 percent since 2012, despite the chemical being part of a group of ozone pollutants that were phased out under the Montreal Protocol. CFCs destroy ozone, leading to the creation of the fearsome “ozone hole,” which is a massive gap in the ozone layer allowing the unimpeded entry of ultraviolet radiation.
“I’ve been making these measurements for more than 30 years, and this is the most surprising thing I’ve seen,” said Stephen Montzka, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who led the work. “I was astounded by it, really.”
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