The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects animal and plant life on Earth from powerful UV rays.
Montreal Protocol expert Durwood Zaelke told The Washington Post that someone was clearly "cheating."
Currently, the damage done to the ozone's recovery is minor, but if left unchecked, it could worsen the hole in the ozone layer. That speculation is due to increased CFC-11 emissions, a big issue that could delay ozone restoration efforts and contribute to a warming planet. As one of the most potentially risky and previously widespread CFCs, used in refrigerants, spray can propellant, styrofoam production, etc., this is a worrying substance to be making a resurgence.
The specific chemical in question is CFC-11, which was once widely used in appliances and foam building insulation.
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CFC-11 was once commonly found in refrigerants, aerosol sprays and Styrofoam.
"In the end, we concluded that it's most likely that someone may be producing the CFC-11 that's escaping to the atmosphere", Montzka said. This means that the total concentration of ozone-depleting chemicals, overall, is still decreasing in the atmosphere. They also estimate that around 6,500 to 13,000 tons of new CFC emissions would fit the observed trend in atmospheric concentrations.
Scientists at NOAA and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at University of Colorado, Boulder, in the United States, for the study, made precise measurements of global atmospheric concentrations of CFC-11. It came as surprise when the scientists learnt that the rate of decline slowed by 50 per cent after 2012. Concurrent with this slow down in the decline was an increase of CFC-11 emissions between 2014 and 2016.
The findings have been confirmed by other data produced by NOAA that even submitted evidence that the new source of CFCs may be located north of the equator. Measurements from Hawaii indicate the sources of the increasing emissions are likely in eastern Asia, the study said.
According to Montzka, more research and work will be required to zero down on the locations of these emissions.
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The finding that the destruction of ozone was creating a large "hole" over the Antarctic led to the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987. As expected, CFC-11 levels have been declining since the chemical was banned and production phased out.
The concentration of CFC-11 in the Northern (red) and Southern (blue) Hemispheres compared to projected decline (gray lines).
"These considerations suggest that the increased CFC-11 emissions arise from new production not reported to [the U.N. Environment Program's] Ozone Secretariat, which is inconsistent with the agreed phase-out of CFC production in the Montreal Protocol by 2010", the researchers wrote.
"It is not clear why any country would want to start to produce, and inadvertently release, CFC-11, when cost effective substitutes have been available for a long while", Watson continued.
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