Montreal Protocol on ozone protection survives a hiccup
The world is more excited about failures and the mysteries that surround them It takes more interest in investigating failures than successes The investigation gets sensational when the postsuccess enquiry doubts the success itself No wonder that Sherlock Holmes is more popular than Shakespeare
The world is more excited about failures and the mysteries that surround them. It takes more interest in investigating failures than successes. The investigation gets sensational when the post-success enquiry doubts the success itself. No wonder that Sherlock Holmes is more popular than Shakespeare.
A similar mystery-drama is now being played out at United Nations on the Montreal Protocol on the Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Crafted in 1987, the Montreal Protocol has proved to be different because it has successfully delivered -- and delivered in time. In 2010, as stipulated in the rules of this universally-ratified environmental treaty, all the production of chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, the main ozone depleting substance (ODS), was halted in all the producing countries, including India and China.
Today, 99 percent of all ODS, including those other than CFCs, have been phased out in developed and developing countries as per the unanimously agreed time-table. A UN scientific assessment panel confirmed in its 2018 report that concentration of all ODS in the atmosphere was declining as a result of the Montreal Protocol being implemented. Further, it revealed that the ozone layer -- the earth's life shield -- was well on the recovery path.
The singular success of the Montreal Protocol is considered an example of what humanity can achieve to reverse environmental degradation. And then came a jolt. A paper published in the prestigious science journal Nature, on May 17, 2018, stated that the concentration of CFC-11, one of the two most abundant ozone-depleting ODS, controlled by the Montreal Protocol, “have unexpectedly stopped its decline and in fact increased in recent years despite a global ban on production in 2010.”
So why was this happening? The best scientific brains as well as brash media and brandishing NGOs started brimming with probable answers. Though production of CFC 11 had stopped in 2010, its stocks from legally produced quantities before January 1, 2010 -- the date of global phase out of CFC 11 -- continue to emit in the atmosphere, as was expected.
The legal stocks in turn can come from two sub-sources: First, the storages of the CFC 11, if those existed, and second, the equipment and the products that contained CFC11 -- air-conditioning in commercial buildings and the insulating foams that are blown with CFC11. At its peak, about 350,000 metric tonnes of CFC11 were produced globally per year for such and other minor uses.