Rise in ozone-depleting CFC gases traced to China

Earth seen from the International Space Station

Earth seen from the International Space Station

China is to blame for much of the increase in illegal ozone-depleting substances (ODS) since 2013, according a study published by the journal Nature on Thursday, with domestic companies accused of violating a global production ban.

The global team of scientists from the UK, South Korea, Japan, the US, Australia and Switzerland who conducted the study have published their latest findings in the journal Nature.

"It is now vital that we find out which industries are responsible for the new emissions", Matt Rigby, a lead author of the study, said in the Sripps Institution statement.

Researchers discovered the thinning of Earth's protective ozone layer in the 1970s and linked it to chlorofluorocarbons, which were used in refrigerators and aerosol cans.

A new study finds that annual CFC emissions from eastern China have jumped by 7,000 tonnes since 2013, when global emissions began to rise again - although the increase was only discovered previous year.

The results are also disconcerting because the emissions had been declining substantially since the mid 1990s, until 2012, when climate scientists were surprised by a "sudden, unexpected" upward trend of global emissions of CFC-11. Because the chemical does not occur in nature, the change could only have been produced by new emissions.

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China ratified the treaty in 1991 and said a year ago it has already eliminated as much as 280,000 tonnes of annual ODS production capacity and was speeding up efforts to phase out other ozone-damaging chemicals.

There were indications that some region in eastern Asia was still emitting thousands of tonnes of CFC-11, but the exact location was not known.

Reports previous year from the Environmental Investigation Agency blamed Chinese foam factories in the coastal province of Shandong and the inland province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.

China launched a special campaign to inspect 3,000 foam manufacturers across the country previous year and promised to punish any violations of the Montreal treaty. CFC-11 emissions were around 7,000 tons per year higher between 2014 and 2017 than 2008-2012, the scientists said.

The ozone layer is a region of Earth's stratosphere that essentially act as a shield and absorbs most of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

But pouring more CFC-11 into the air could also prevent ozone from returning to normal levels, scientists warn.

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