The New York Times February 19, 2021 9:58:04 AM IST
Emissions of banned gases from China that harm the Earth’s ozone layer have fallen sharply after several years of increase, two teams of scientists said Wednesday.
Findings show that increased gas emissions, decades of environmental struggle for CFC-11 to repair the ozone layer, which filters UV rays from the sun that can cause skin cancer and damage crops. Alleviates concerns about slowing the progress of.
Stephen Montska, a research chemist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the lead author of a study, says that both global emissions and emissions from eastern China have dropped significantly. A study by Montzka et al. Three years ago first revealed illegal emissions.
According to Montska, there was a fair amount of reaction, probably as a result of us raising the flag and saying, “Hey, something shouldn’t happen.”
Matthew Rigby, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and author of the second study, said ozone recovery could be delayed for years if emissions weren’t reduced. So far, a full recovery is still expected by the middle of the century.
Chinese government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A chemist in Shandong Province, a highly industrialized state in eastern China where CFC-11 was widely used in the manufacture of insulating foam, said the banned gas trade was significantly depleted. In a telephone interview, Shandong chemical merchant Gao Shang said it hasn’t disappeared altogether, but much less than before.
CFC-11 was outlawed 10 years ago under the Montreal Protocol, a treaty enacted in the 1980s, and research has shown that it has the effect on ozone in the atmosphere, along with the effects of similar widely used chemicals. The impact has become clear.
Exposure in a 2018 study of illegal emissions from China, which began five years ago, is a scientist, policymaker, and environmentalist who oversees a protocol that is widely regarded as the most effective environmental treaty in history. I was shocked.
Meg Seki, acting secretary-general of the Ozone Secretariat, the UN agency that manages the treaty, said the organization is pleased that emissions are likely to decline and its impact on the ozone layer is likely to be limited. Stated. However, she said in a statement that it is important to prevent such unexpected emissions in the future through continuous high levels of surveillance by the scientific community.
The 2018 survey did not identify most sources other than identifying emissions from East Asia. But that year, a study by Washington, DC-based independent advocacy agency Environmental Investigation Agency and The New York Times found evidence that gas was still produced and used in eastern China, especially Shandong.
Atmospheric analysis led by Rigby in 2019 found that Shandong and neighboring Hebei are the main sources.
Chinese environmental authorities hedged the findings and raised suspicions when first faced with evidence. This suggests that the cause of the chemical may be unknown, or that manufacturers of insulating foam do not use CFC-11 very often.
At the same time, China’s Ministry of Ecological and Environmental Protection has pledged zero tolerance for companies found to be illegally manufacturing or using CFC-11.
Policy announcements, industry reports, and court decisions all show that the Chinese government has cracked down on illegal trade, despite continuing to deny that there were serious problems. Last year, the government announced the conviction of businessman Qi Arming as the first case in China of criminal charges against illegal trade in ozone-destroying chemicals.
In addition to prosecution, the government has pledged to strengthen rules and surveillance in the chemical and foam manufacturing industries and create a comprehensive data system to track the movement of chemicals that can be used to manufacture CFC-11. did.
There are legal gases that can replace CFC-11 in the production of foam. High, a chemical merchant in Shandong Province, said his company specializes in one of them.
The availability of alternatives may have helped China’s efforts to reduce CFC-11 emissions. Zhu Xiuli, a sales manager for another company that sells foaming agents in Shandong Province, said the customer had previously asked if he had CFC-11. But over the last two years, she said, there have been fewer and fewer inquiries.
CFC-11 is also used in refrigeration equipment. Over time, as the gear ages and the foam containing CFC-11 deteriorates, the gas is slowly released. The exact size of this bank of CFC-11 is not known, but it is explained by the protocol and is one of the reasons why complete ozone recovery takes decades.
A new paper published in Nature also does not explain the overall global increase in CFC-11 emissions that has occurred since 2013. Gas may still be produced or used in other countries or in other parts of China, but researchers have said that there are not enough air sampling stations around the world to know for sure.
This is a useful lesson that is really needed to extend surveillance capabilities, Rigby said.
Avipsa Mahapatra, Environmental Investigation Agency’s Climate Campaign Leader, described a new finding that it is exciting to see ground information and atmospheric studies confirming that subsequent enforcement has led to a spectacular climate victory. However, her group said it suggests that execution may have been more successful in some parts of China than in others. She said it wasn’t time for complacency.
Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study, said the study was a real victory for science.
But the problem isn’t over yet, Solomon said. Because, in addition to CFC-11, other similar chemicals are released. There is an entire zoo of molecules, the quantities are small, but they are summed up.
They are also powerful greenhouse gases, she said, but their contribution to global warming is far less than the much more prevalent heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. She said the chemical industry around the world isn’t really confidently monitoring the amount of greenhouse gases and ozone-depleting gases they produce.
Chris Buckley and Henry Fountain c.2021 The New York Times Company
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