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Ozone Recovery Is Back on Track After China Slows CFC-11 Production
By Martin Kuebler
In recent years, scientists had been alarmed by a sudden unexplained rise in ozone-attacking chemicals in the atmosphere. Higher levels of trichlorofluoromethanes, also known as CFC-11, were showing up in air samples — despite being officially banned worldwide since 2010.
Scientists were worried that this surge was slowing efforts to fix the thin protective layer in Earth's atmosphere which absorbs most of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Unfiltered exposure to the sun's rays can contribute to DNA damage and increase the long-term risk of skin cancer and other health issues.
Ozone Recovery Efforts Back on Track
But on Wednesday, two studies published in science journal Nature reported that atmospheric concentrations of 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 report — showing that the world was back on track to repairing the damage to Earth's ozone layer, by mid-century.
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that the largest source of the global increase in "rogue emissions" attributed to factories in eastern China was no longer active.
Stephen Montzka, an atmospheric chemist at U.S. scientific agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado, who led one of the studies, said the setback caused by the illegal emissions was expected to be "negligible."
Meg Seki, acting executive secretary of Ozone Secretariat at the UN Environment Program (UNEP), credited the reversal to international cooperation and action in line with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
The international treaty, agreed in 1987 to ban the production of ozone-depleting chemicals, has been signed by almost every country in the world. CFC-11, once used in refrigerants, as propellants in aerosol cans and in polyurethane foam insulation, has been officially banned since 2010.
"The [Montreal] treaty did its job," Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an advocacy group based in Washington, told Nature. "Whoever the offending parties were — including most definitely China — they got their act together."
"China also did its part in strengthening its policies, regulations, monitoring and enforcement," Seki told DW.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment in Beijing could not be reached for comment. But in an April 2020 press release, the ministry announced the first results of a two-month crackdown on the illegal production and use of CFC-11. The campaign resulted in an executive with a thermal insulation firm near Shanghai being sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 50,000 yuan (€6,400/$7,700). The company was also fined 700,000 yuan and had to forfeit more than 1.4 million yuan in profits since 2017.
"The Chinese government has always attached great importance to international environmental conventions and has been resorting to strict law enforcement as a major guarantee to safeguard the achievement China has made in implementing these conventions," the ministry said in a statement after the sentencing.
Construction Industry Crackdown
The illegal emissions first came to light in May 2018, when researchers with NASA and the NOAA noticed an unexplained spike in atmospheric concentrations of CFC-11 dating back to 2013. From 2002 and 2012, according to Nature, CFC-11 emissions fell by about 0.85% a year. But from 2013 that figure was cut almost in half, to about 0.4% — the result of about 13,000 metric tons a year of newly produced CFCs in the atmosphere.
Scientists and researchers with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) were able to trace around 60% of the illegal emissions to eastern China. Posing as buyers, EIA investigators found the use of CFC-11 was widespread in China's plastic foam sector. The banned chemical is cheaper than the alternatives and was found to be widely used to produce more effective insulators for the booming construction industry.
"Our investigations revealed widespread illegal use of CFC-11 in China as a blowing agent for the production of polyurethane (PU) foams," said Clare Perry, a climate campaign leader with EIA. "The information we provided kickstarted a nationwide inspection and enforcement action by China, which has clearly been successful."
'Wake-Up Call' for Montreal Protocol
According to EIA, companies admitted to mislabeling the banned CFC-11 as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) compounds and other chemicals. China, which joined the Montreal Protocol in 1991 and said it successfully ended the industrial use of CFCs in 2007, questioned the conclusions of the EIA study. Nevertheless, the government said in mid-2019 it would boost monitoring efforts and impose penalties on companies caught illegally producing the chemical.
"The action taken in 2018 by China in response to our investigations appears to have led to an immediate reduction of CFC-11 emissions," said Perry. "This issue should be a wake-up call to the Montreal Protocol — the failure to detect the illegal CFC-11 production and use prior to its scientific discovery compels a very serious look at the current monitoring, reporting and verification systems."
Perry told DW the parties to the Montreal Protocol were already talking about how to expand the atmospheric monitoring network, but said more change was necessary. "They need to consider how they can ensure long-term compliance and enforcement, particularly considering the challenges of taking on new controls of HFCs with the Kigali Amendment."
The Kigali Amendment, which entered into force in 2019, aims to also phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which were developed to replace CFCs in the 1990s but act as potent greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change.
"Addressing the existing gaps in monitoring, and filling those gaps strategically with new monitoring stations, would help to improve the detection of regional emissions of ozone depleting substances," said Seki of UNEP.
At the projected recovery rates, UNEP has said the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere and the regions around the equator "will heal completely" by the 2030s, the Southern Hemisphere by the 2050s and the polar regions by the 2060s.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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