Thursday, May 17, 2018

Someone is breaking the Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is one of the global community's most significant environmental achievements - the environment treaty that actually worked. But now, someone is apparently breaking it:

Emissions of some ozone-depleting Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have shot up in the past six years, despite a decades-old treaty banning them altogether.

“Atmospheric detective work” has pinpointed a mysterious new source in East Asia that might be responsible for this surge in destructive chemicals.


However, in a new paper published in the journal Nature, an international team of scientists report an unexpected finding of CFC-11, one of the major ozone-depleting chemicals.

The rate of this substance’s decline in the atmosphere has slowed by approximately 50 per cent since 2012.

This suggests new CFC sources have emerged in recent years, hampering the international effort to completely rid the atmosphere of these chemicals.

"East Asia" probably means "China", and its exactly the sort of behaviour you get in a corrupt state where businesses routinely ignore environmental regulation for profit (see also: melamine in milk). CFCs are cheaper than HFCs to make, so someone is probably just making them and bribing officials to look the other way. A business culture which doesn't care about poisoning children is unlikely to care about destroying the ozone layer.

Except its not just ozone. The CFC they've detected - CFC-11 - is also a greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential of 5350. The Nature article estimates the new production at 13 ± 5 gigagrams per year, or 13,000 tons. Which is equivalent to almost 70 million tons of CO2 - close to the entire gross emissions of New Zealand. So they're not just cheating on Montreal, they're also cheating on Kyoto and Paris, to the tune of over a billion dollars a year.

Hopefully now that this has hit the global media, this pirate pollution factory will be shut down. But the fact that it even started in the first place suggests certain nations have inadequate environmental monitoring - something they need to fix if the world is to collectively address its problems.