China is Behind the Ozone Layer-Attacking CFCs Rise

Last year scientists sounded the alarm about a worrying rise in banned chemicals in the atmosphere that damage our Ozone layer — and now they’ve traced those chemicals back to their source.

Repairing our ozone layer is one of the most important environmental and political success stories in recent history. It demonstrated that when we act as one body with firm regulations, like the Montreal Protocol, in place, the world can bring about massive change to save our planet.

But last year scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Colorado sounded the alarm. After 2012, global data showed a worrying rise in CFC-11 and a slowing of CFC-11′s decline in our atmosphere. CFC-11 was primarily used as home insulation, and the phase-out of its use has been key in fighting ozone depletion. Any rise in atmospheric levels tends to raise a red flag that someone has begun using CFCs again at industrial scale, thus risking the progress we had made toward replenishing our ozone layer.

At the time, researchers said they couldn’t track the source of the CFCs, but it likely originated from somewhere on the continent of Asia. Now, we know the culprits: factories in eastern mainland China.

Publishing in “Nature“, a team of scientists write that, “emissions from eastern mainland China are 7.0 ± 3.0 (±1 standard deviation) gigagrams per year higher in 2014–2017 than in 2008–2012, and that the increase in emissions arises primarily around the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Hebei. This increase accounts for a substantial fraction (at least 40 to 60 per cent) of the global rise in CFC-11 emissions.”

To put this in more real-world terms, for the years 2014-2017 compared to the period between 2008-2012, there was a 110 percent rise in CFC-11 emissions.

The researchers used monitoring station data to triangulate the source of the emissions. They say that they can find no other emissions spikes from other areas of China or Asia, suggesting that it may be a regional issue. They also ran computer simulation models to further support their findings, and those simulations backed up that factories in eastern mainland China appear to be producing CFCs.

This isn’t a complete picture, however. These regional emissions would account for the bulk of the emissions they have recorded, but it doesn’t cover them all. So where are the other emissions coming from? They can’t yet say.

It might be tempting to guess other areas of China, but there is no hard data to prove that. With little monitoring across South America and India, it is possible that someone is cheating on the Montreal Protocol there, too.

The CFC concentrations currently in our atmosphere will only slow the rejuvenation of our Ozone layer, not halt it. Obviously, that in itself is a deeply disturbing trend, especially since CFC-11 is not essential to industrial scale manufacture.

However, the researchers are keen to underscore that there is another reason to be alarmed by these findings: CFCs are potent greenhouse gases.

the BBC quotes the authors on this, saying, “If we look at these extra emissions that we’ve identified from eastern China, it equates to about 35 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere every year, that’s equivalent to about 10% of UK emissions, or similar to the whole of London.”

For their part, Chinese authorities have said they are working to address this issue with a wide-scale overhaul of manufacturing processes. To their credit, arrests were carried out in November of last year against several manufacturers who were producing CFCs among other unlawful emissions. China then reported in March of this year that it had shut down two manufacturing companies for using CFC-11 and that authorities are in the process of investigating hundreds more.

It is vital that China continue to address these issues without delay if we are to have any hope of getting back on track for our climate change mitigation strategies. To China’s credit, it appears keen to reaffirm a commitment to the Montreal Protocol, something that will be vital as we move forward in the climate change fight.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

59 comments

Chad A
Chad Aabout a month ago

Thank you.

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

Because western countries insist that China manufacture all their polluting products, don't blame China.

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Richard B
Richard B1 months ago

thanks for posting

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Jayne T
Jayne T1 months ago

Call on your MPs xx Call on the Government xx Call on Anyone who can help stop this debacle before it’s too late xx more Pressure needs to be put on Everyone who has a say xx that includes You xx we are these Governments xx we are the MPs they are only there because we vote them in xx this is the highest danger to Our Ozone Layer xx this is only going to get worse xx imagine air you can not breathe xx imagine the Suns dangers to our Planet xx imagine the Climate changes xx We are already facing some of these xx STOP IT NOW BEFORE WE CAN NOT TURN BACK xx Sign people please xx Listen with your Heart you know in right xx we must put a stop to this xx put pressure on these Governments to Stop them please xx

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Shirley S
Shirley S1 months ago

China's toxic air is floating everywhere in the winds.

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Anne M
Anne Moran1 months ago

China,,, so bad, in so many ways...

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Shelley W
Shelley w1 months ago

China is also working with injecting human brain cells into the brains of monkeys. For what purpose? Maybe monkeys and apes that think like humans will become their new soldiers. What other sick things will they be doing next?

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Shelley W
Shelley w1 months ago

Thank goodness Trump is trying to weaken China with tariffs. This is something Obama and previous Presidents did not even consider doing. China pays lip service to concern about green house gases. China has one of the worst records for human rights abuses. Biden is an idiot to say that China is not a threat to the United States when they constantly steal intellectual property from America and other countries. They have now added incinerators to their internment and re-education camps for Muslims and Christians. It appears that they plan to burn those who fail their re-education programs.

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek1 months ago

Tyfs

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