But someone is cheating on that worldwide agreement, The Washington Post reports.
Officially, production of CFC-11 is supposed to be at or near zero - at least, that is what countries have been telling the United Nations body that monitors and enforces the Protocol.
Zaelke said he was surprised by the findings, not just because the chemical has always been banned, but also because alternatives already exist, making it hard to imagine what the market for CFC-11 today would be. This insults everybody who's worked on this for the last 30 years. In fact, CFC-11 emissions between 2014 and 2016 were found to be 25 percent higher than the average CFC-11 emissions from 2002 to 2012.
"I do measurement for more than 30 years, and this is the most wonderful thing I have seen, said Steven Monda (Stephen Montzka), a scientist from the National oceanic and atmospheric administration, who led this work".
"Emissions today are about the same as it was almost 20 years ago".
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.
Their results indicate that emissions of trichlorofluoromethane - known as CFC-11 - are increasing, suggesting it is still being produced and used despite a ban on manufacturing it after 2010. "We don't know why they might be doing that and if it is being made for some specific objective, or inadvertently as a side product of some other chemical process".
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That said, if the prompt action isn't taken as soon as possible, these emissions can prove to be a major roadblock and delay the recovery of ozone.
"A timely recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer depends on a sustained decline of CFC-11 concentrations", the wrote. This was confusing as other gases similar to CFC-11 were not being distributed in the same pattern. This led the researchers to posit that someone might be indulging in the production of the chemical.
CFC-11 On The Rise Again?
Montzka told the BBC that the data points "fairly definitively" towards Eastern Asia, somewhere around China, Mongolia and the Koreas. It is thought that about 13,000 tonnes a year has been released since 2013.
To put this in perspective, at peak emissions in the 1980s, the world was producing 350,000 tons of CFC-11 each year, before dropping to 54,000 tons per year at the turn of the century.
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. "There's a reasonable chance we'll figure out what's happening here", he said.
The most likely source, according to the study, is from new, unreported production from an unidentified source in East Asia. CFC-11, used as a refrigerant, is considered the second most damaging of the chemicals phased out under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, The US stopped making it in 1996 and worldwide production had reached nearly zero by 2007. Now, it appears someone is going rogue.
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