Climate change was touted as a major issue in the recent Australian election. The Coalition’s surprise win could potentially be credited to Australia’s scepticism towards the issue, and towards the notion that it’s our sole responsibility to ‘save the world’ from climate change.
This is especially true when Australia only makes up 1% of global C02 emissions. A tiny amount, considering the leadership role that many on the left expect us to take in tackling the issue — and potentially crippling our economy in the process.
But even that small percentage may be hugely inflated, considering that it seems one of the world’s largest polluters has been lying about their numbers.
In a recent article published in peer-reviewed science journal Nature, scientists from the University of Bristol, Kyungpook National University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found evidence that a chemical that was banned in 1987 has been clandestinely emitted from China’s north-eastern provinces of Shandong and Hebei.
The banned substance, trichlorofluoromethane — or CFC-11 — was invented in the 1920s as useful and efficient refrigerant. Though, while good for keeping your orange juice cold, the compounds used to create the refrigerant — ammonia, chloromethane, propane, sulphur dioxide — were highly toxic, so toxic in fact that direct contact to the substance could be fatal.
On top of this, CFC-11 is even worse for the environment. Instead of breaking down into harmless molecules like some other gasses, CFCs break down into chlorine atoms, which essentially hang around in the ozone layer. When these chlorine atoms come into contact with the atoms in the ozone, they set off chain reactions which further eat away at the ozone. What’s even worse, this effect is especially prevalent in the sector of the ozone just 10–40km above Australia.
That’s why, in 1987, 46 countries — China included — signed the Montreal Protocol, which they had (by ‘they’, we mean ‘45 countries’) hoped would phase out the production of multiple ozone-depleting chemicals, one of the biggest offenders of course being our CFC-11.
How much of the stuff is China emitting? Well, according to the scientists from the Nature article, the amount of CFCs emitted globally is ‘7.0 ± 3.0 (±1 standard deviation) gigagrams per year higher in 2014–2017 than in 2008–2012’. And, the researchers were sure to point out, no where else on Earth did they find any of the substance being emitted.
Chinese officials say they are now cracking down on these clandestine emitters, which they refer to as ‘rogue manufacturers’. As BBC reports, ‘The Chinese say they have already started to clamp down on production […] Last November, several suspects were arrested in Henan province, in possession of 30 tonnes of CFC-11.’
Yes, China may be punishing these people now, but would they have done so if foreign journalists hadn’t caught them red-handed? And in a country with so little freedom for the press, how can we possibly assume this is the only pollution scandal swept under the rug?
How is it fair for us, as a nation, to foot the bill for a country who brazenly emits a substance known to deplete the ozone above our very head?
It would seem the best way for an Australian to take action against climate change would be to minimise how much you buy from the world’s number one emitter, China.
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