Starting in the late 1950s, there was growing industrial production of an inert chemical compound known as Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC).
For decades, CFCs were used as the refrigerant chemical in air conditioners and refrigerators, and as propellent in aerosol canisters.
However, starting in the 1970s, it became apparent that CFCs weren’t quite so safe. After gradually wafting up to the stratosphere, CFCs would split apart into individual chlorine atoms when bombarded by high-altitude solar radiation.
These liberated chlorine atoms quickly started to block the formation of stratospheric ozone.
Continued ozone depletion meant that progressively greater amounts of ultraviolet radiation were able to travel through the stratosphere unimpeded and reach the Earth’s surface. Researchers believed this could hurt agricultural output while raising rates of skin cancer. However, an additional consequence of this increased ultraviolet penetration was that it helped to drive up global surface temperatures.
In 1996, global agreement led to the full implementation of the Montreal Protocol, which banned all CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Since that time, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), chlorine concentrations in the stratosphere have gradually decreased and ozone levels have begun to stabilize.
All of this would be good news in terms of reducing ultraviolet radiation exposure—but there’s a new problem. Despite international agreement to eliminate all ozone-depleting chemicals, it appears that China has not been fully abiding by the terms of the Montreal Protocol.
Researchers have found that a chemical known as carbon tetrachloride (CCI4)—which was banned in 2010 because it interferes with ozone formation—is continuing to be released from factories in eastern China.
It’s believed that one or more sources of CCI4 emissions emerged in China’s Shandong province after 2012.
What’s troubling about the continued release of CCI4 is that it hampers overall efforts to rebuild stratospheric ozone. And it also affects surface temperatures. Ultraviolet radiation converts to infrared after it reaches the Earth’s surface. It is this infrared radiation that warms the troposphere.
And so, increased ultraviolet penetration will inevitably increase surface temperatures.
Concerns about man-made global warming focus on carbon dioxide’s ability to intercept infrared radiation.
But China’s willful disregard of the Montreal Protocol means that, even if nations seek to limit carbon dioxide emissions, the increased ultraviolet penetration enabled by China’s CCI4 production would still drive up surface temperatures.
All of this demonstrates why China’s lack of environmental concern should receive greater global scrutiny, particularly from those who focus on climate issues.
Terry Jarrett is an energy attorney and consultant who has served on both the board of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Missouri Public Service Commission. He contributes regularly to LeadingLightEnergy.com.
The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LifeZette.