Two recent research reports published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature confirm that atmospheric concentrations of the ozone-depleting chemical CFC-11 had once again dropped significantly.
By late 2019, levels were falling by about 1% a year — the fastest on record, according to the reports — showing that the world was back on track to repairing the damage to the Earth’s ozone layer by mid-century.
China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environmental Protection has vowed “zero tolerance” for businesses found illegally making or using CFC-11. The evidence shows that it has delivered on this commitment.
Earlier research in 2018 found a “spike” in the concentration of CFC-11 but did not pinpoint the source of most of the emissions beyond locating them as coming from East Asia. In 2019 further monitoring indicated the rogue emissions were coming from eastern China. Using data and measurements from air-monitoring stations in South Korea and Japan, scientists were able to determine that the largest source of the global increase in rogue emissions attributed to factories in eastern China were no longer active.
The recent research was conducted by two separate international scientific teams, which found that as a result of the rapid action by the Chinese authorities, there had been a huge decline both in global emission rates and what’s coming from eastern China, and that the world is on track for the the original goal of full recovery of atmospheric ozone by the middle of the century.
CFC gases are also potent greenhouse gases and they stay in the atmosphere for a long time, which is why the recovery of the ozone layer will take decades. Nevertheless, Stephen Montzka, an atmospheric chemist at US scientific agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado USA, who led one of the studies, said the setback caused by the illegal emissions was expected to be “negligible.”
The United Nations Environment Program said at the projected recovery rates, the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere and the regions around the equator “will heal completely” by the 2030s, and in the Southern Hemisphere by the 2050s and the polar regions by the 2060s. China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environmental Protection has vowed “zero tolerance” for businesses found illegally making or using CFC-11. The evidence shows that it has delivered on this commitment.
“Significant progress has been made in the control of ozone depleting substances in China since the country joined the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 30 years ago. So far, China has phased out 280,000 metric tons of the substances, accounting for about half the total reduction by developing nations, said Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and Environment.” (China Daily | 2019-09-17)
The Nature articles estimated enterprises in north-eastern China illegally produced 7, 000 tonnes of banned CFC-11 since 2013, and contributed 40 to 60 per cent to the “spike” in global CFC emissions. Scientists have not identified which other countries are responsible for the the remaining rogue emissions.
It is also worth getting the illegal emissions from Chinese enterprises into perspective: the emissions from these illegal operations are 0.025% (1/40th) of the 280,000 tonnes of ozone depleting chemicals already phased out by China. Even the New York Times, normally a rabid source of anti-China pronouncements, admitted in an article on 10-02-2021, that “Policy announcements, industry reports and court judgments all indicate that the Chinese government cracked down on the illicit trade. …. Last year, the government publicized a conviction of a businessman, Qi Erming, as the first case in China of a criminal prosecution for illegally trading in ozone-damaging chemicals.” As well as prosecutions, China has tightened rules and monitoring of the chemical and foam production industries and created a comprehensive data system to trace the movement of chemicals that could be used to make CFC-11.
This article was previously published on China Environment News Facebook page, on 13 Feb 2021.
Sources: Nature research papers: