China Has Secretly Been Emitting A Banned Ozone-Destroying Gas

A gas that was banned in the 1980s due to its catastrophic effects on the ozone layer has unfortunately made a startling resurgence, and scientists are blaming China, according to The National Post.

Chlorofluorocarbons (known as CFC) are chemicals that used to be present in foams and appliances such as refrigerators. However, the 1982 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer banned their production after it was realized that they tore through the ozone layer. The protocol was signed by 197 countries around the world, including China.

It was for this reason that that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) was stunned to learn that global emissions of a specific type of CFC, known as CFC-11, has been steadily increasing since 2013.

Scientists from the University of Bristol, Kyungpook National University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology zeroed in on China as the culprit after their reading devices spiked in Japan and South Korea.

After tracing wind patterns, they were finally able to determine that the source of the CFC-11 emissions came from eastern mainland China, around the Shandong province. The scientists claim that 40 to 60 percent of total global CFC-11 emissions originate from this area, in a report published in Nature.

Pollution in China
Getty Images | Kevin Frayer

Since publication of the study, the Environmental Investigation Agency and The New York Times were able to confirm that China was using the banned substance in the industry of foam production, per The National Post.

Chinese manufacturers are willing to risk damage to the environment because the CFC-11 containing foam is not only cheaper to make, but also better quality. Though some manufacturers claim that they operate in secret, others have claimed that the government is aware, but willing to ignore the gross environmental violation.

Matthew Rigby, lead author of the study and Reader in Atmospheric Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, said that he was shocked at the quantity of the gas that was being released -- which amounted to 7,000 tons since 2013.

"That's more than double the emissions we were expecting from China at the time," he lamented.

"Was this enough to account for a substantial fraction of the global emissions rise that we saw? What we've found in this study is that, yes, it is globally significant."
Rigby hopes that the report will encourage the Chinese government to crack down on CFC-11 production, adding that the greenhouse gas is "5,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the climate."

The ozone layer is an instrumental part in stopping global warming, as it reflects harmful UV rays from entering the Earth's atmosphere.