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Someone Is Wrecking Our Planet

Posted on 29th May 2018

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This news on is very worrying. A country, so far unidentified, in South East Asia, is releasing large quantities of CFC-11 into the atmosphere.

CFCs were responsible for the hole in the ozone layer over the antarctic, but after the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the use of CFCs has bee greatly reduced, and recent news indicated that the ozone hole had begun to close. Now, it seems, that small improvement in the health of our planet is being undone.

CFCs, which were once widely used in refrigerators, are a highly reactive class of chemicals which last a long time in the atmosphere. They convert ozone in the upper atmosphere, which protects the surface from UV radiation, to oxygen. They are also very strong greenhouse gases, thousands of times more potent than CO2.

This massive release of CFC-11 means that we should expect skin cancer risk in Australia and New Zealand to remain high, or even increase. It also means that global warming will be even harder to limit.

One take away from this is how ineffective these voluntary international agreements (e.g. the Montreal Protocol and the 2016 Paris Climate Accord). Such agreements lack any enforcement mechanisms, so even if the culprit country is discovered, there will be no simple way to stop the releases or to punish them. It does not bode well for the success of the Paris Climate Accord, and more importantly, our future.