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Illegal Production and Use of Banned CFC-11 in China's Foam Blowing Industry (eia-global.org)
365 points by comex 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments



This kind of "on purpose" behavior is making me very upset. I keep thinking that there should be some kind of mechanism for the perpetrators to have a feel of their own medicine.

Like every time a vehicle in front of me releasing thick black smoke from tailpipe, I feel like it must be required by law for them to channel some of the smoke to go inside their own vehicle, so they know, "Oh, apparently it doesn't smell nice and it can kill me, I should send my car to workshop so I don't hurt others."

Smokers already feel this. In many buildings, when they want to smoke, they must go to some room with other smokers. Although, I still don't understand why they still keep smoking. At least, they can only hurt themselves.


Have you ever been to China? Those people are "feeling" their own medicine daily, pervasively, in ways it's difficult to comprehend except by experiencing it for yourself. The images and stories you consume on the internet only take you part of the way to their soul crushing reality.

They are already the product of their environment.

Coal rollers in the USA, on the other hand, have no excuse.


When I was smoking, hanging outside with other smokers was half of the addiction.

Completely unrelated to this case, which is just about old fashioned profit over the common good.


Agreed. "Rolling Coal" should be treated as a violent assault on others, especially cyclists, that I should be able to defend myself against like any other assault.


This seems like a question that has to be left up to the courts, somehow.


I think the economic phrase for it is internalizing negative externalities: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality


No doubt this publication will result in a crackdown. Good job EIA. Background on EIA @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Investigation_Ag...


The question is what kind of pressure will China respond to


It seems like China is going in the right direction with regards to enforcing environmental standards, so I have no reason to think that this won't result in crackdowns from government.


I sure hope so. But China's wasting its energy on:

- cracking down dissidents (no election - no real 'authority', officials don't have any incentives to listen to "the people"^TM)

- handling local politics (again, no election - same PRC ppl)

- deporting N.Korean refugees back to N.Korea (continuing just because Chinas has been doing so - just like PRC praising Mao for Cultural Revolution that killed millions)


The central government in Beijing takes pollution pretty seriously, it's usually an issue of corruption at the level of local officials. Once an environmental issue is loud enough to convince Beijing to turn its gaze there, they can usually be counted on to make it go away, by good means or bad.


But does this type of pollution have any localized effect? It might be years before the ozone hole grows large enough to directly affect the country.

If the effect of this pollution is that China's competitors have to spend more energy and resources combatting the ozone hole then it's a competitive advantage with the only downside being loss of international reputation.

Point is, the pollution China's been cracking down on is the type that hurts the country economically (whether through immediate health issues or making it less desirable to live). Will be interesting to see how they respond.

While this report may be the first smoking gun, there have been very, very strong implications of cheating in China on CFCs for years. If they wanted to rein it in, they could have done it long ago.


isn't it all because there's no election in China?

without elections, why would a gov. official listen to "the people"?


To remain in power? That's why they have propaganda. All governments listen to their people, by necessity. The quality and quantity of this listening varies, but all do.


agreed. But China's "quality and quantity" effectively is "as long as there isn't a bloody riot all over the place" :(

and speaking of dissidents, why would Chinese police operate "execution vans"? isn't that to hide execution of key people, whose news of execution may stir the public?


Loss of face when they're trying to contrast approach on climate change vs. Trump


This explains the mysterious increased measure of atmospheric CFCs. Hopefully this will help stabilize ozone hole again. Can't believe that China would allow this given all they have to lose. Causing further damage to the ozone will intensify other environmental issues the country and planet experience.


> Can't believe that China would allow this given all they have to lose.

They don't. It's already illegal there.

Factories creating that gas are doing so in secret and are unregistered.

Licensed factories secretly using that gas appear to be good at evading the discovery of that fact by authorities, partly due to corrupt inspectors.

It's mentioned in the video in the linked article.


What does China have to lose?


There agriculture in Australia and Africa? Rising sea-levels and with them huge swaths of the most densely populated coastal area on the planet?

If the oceans rise 2 meters half of their coastal citys are in for severe flooding.

http://en-gb.topographic-map.com/places/Shanghai-8976316/


China doesn’t have as strong a government as many people would think. A lot of enterprising individuals and even local governments will do whatever they can get away with to make a few more yuan. They’ll only stop when the central government gets serious and cracks down.

But the same could be said for any hyper capitalistic society without rule of law or strong regulatory enforcement. That just happens to mainly be China right now, but could also be the USA in the future if the EPA is dismantled and Trumpism reigns.


Shan gao, huangdi yuan — “The mountains are high, and the emperor is far away.”


Given the tremendous quantity of illegal explosives and fiery flying projectiles (fireworks and skyrockets) discharged in suburban streets over the last week in my fire-prone, drought challenged US city, one might conclude that the US doesn't have a very strong government either.


Chinese New Year in Beijing a few years ago was like a war zone during the Gulf war (actualky probably much worse). It’s gotten better recently, but I’m sure even minor fireworks during CNY in a rural area blows anything in the USA completely away.


It's almost like police are allowed discretion in their duties, and choose willingly not to arrest or fine normal people who are just having a fun time with fireworks on Independence Day weekend (despite the cries of overprotective soccer moms). Really makes you think!


For reference, trichlorofluoromethane (also called freon-11, CFC-11, or R-11) [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichlorofluoromethane


Demilic, BASF, Lapolla, etc have all phased out CFC-11 in their Open and Closed Cell Foams since around 2009. It's not surprising that the Chinese still use the old style spray foam. It was less costly to produce, had better cell structure and a better rise from what I remember. But not so good for the environment.

The only positive is where ever they use it as insulation, will reduce energy needs to heat or cool the structure.


See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Dome_(film) for China’s inability to regulate their out of control pollution.


> By the end of March 1st, 2015, all reports and reviews about the documentary Under the Dome were withdrawn from online websites

> The reason of banning was said to be the pressure of public perception of smog and the fear of collective action of the people

it's not 'inability to regulate', but reluctant to regulate. Just make those environmental groups shut up.


This is the problem with growing an economy at any cost.


If you read the guardian on the subject: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/09/mysterio...

It seems to me like there is laws against this, there are inspectors, but local corruption and small fines is making it ineffective.

Of the numbers at the end of the article are just somewhat correct, we're talking about maybe 10 factories (give or take). So this is certainly something that can be fixed.

At it's so far clear that the government is not condoning this behavior.


China has realized that given their population, climate change will disproportionately affect them. So the government has good reason to actually enforce environmental laws; they’re just too big to do it effectively.


>China has realized that given their population, climate change will disproportionately affect them.

Not entirely sure about this, time and time again there seems to be a disconnect between what China says and what China does.

>So the government has good reason to actually enforce environmental laws; they’re just too big to do it effectively.

When they want to, they are capable of blocking the entire internet, monitoring all residents, manipulating global raw materials. Why else run a dictatorship?


From speaking with people who have lived in China, the environment is a huge concern for the people living there. Unlike in the US, there is a very clear expectation that it's the government is both capable of, and is responsible for dealing with it.

Chinese people aren't some mindless propagandized drones. They have the same capacity of looking out the window as you or I.


You misunderstand me. I'm not calling them idiots, the average person is probably fully aware that all of this environmental damage turned the sky yellow and made it hotter.

The people making the foam 100% know it's illegal (as they demonstrated) and why it's illegal - yet they still do it. The money is more important to them than the ethics.

Besides, if the Chinese government and the Chinese people didn't think differently, all of this censoring and covering up wouldn't be needed.


> The money is more important to them than the ethics.

This is a problem in every country. There's nothing unique about China in that respect. Unethical people will tend behave unethically when money is on the line.

Maybe the cover-ups are done in order to save face, or because some particular agent in the department responsible is getting kickbacks. The CCP as a whole does benefits from the first, not the second.


> When they want to, they are capable of blocking the entire internet, monitoring all residents, manipulating global raw materials. Why else run a dictatorship?

Efforts to enforce regulations on CFC gasses need to work all the time. Efforts to censor the internet only needs to work most the of the time.

The tolerance for failure is different.


>It seems to me like there is laws against this, there are inspectors, but local corruption and small fines is making it ineffective.

It's not just that, higher government in China have caused the situation - they without doubt hold much of the burden for this. There are multiple angles as for why:

* One of the Chinese Communist Party's main points confirming how amazing their party is (and therefore why it shouldn't be challenged) is the amount it's been able to grow the economy. This has created a national sentiment of "growth at all costs".

* Setting high economic growth goals on local officials means they need to cut corners to get there - including lying about how much money they really made and ignoring laws in favour of growth. The consequence to this is often human lives and environmental damage.

* Preventing the average person from investing in anything other than cheap buildings means that China's housing market has ballooned out of control. (Those who have been able to sneak money outside of China usually also invest in housing.) Building companies therefore want to widen their margins as much as possible whilst competing for investment from locals.

* Trying to maintain a positive image for the Chinese Communist Party means squashing any scandals caused by officials and censoring public discussion/outrage on sensitive issues, such as health and environmental damage. (This doesn't always work, feeding babies cement instead of milk powder was a "little" too far.)

>Of the numbers at the end of the article are just somewhat correct, we're talking about maybe 10 factories (give or take). So this is certainly something that can be fixed.

That's so far and in just one industry. It's also possible other industries are also using CFC-11 but are yet to be discovered.

>At it's so far clear that the government is not condoning this behavior.

1 billion+ people and mass monitoring, I'm pretty sure somebody was aware of this in high level government. By not saying anything, they are effectively condoning it.

Actually, I wouldn't trust the Chinese government to make the formal investigation - they had their chance years ago and did nothing. If we were serious about this, the investigators would be an international team (including Chinese people) and the repercussions would be massive. One "benefit" to it being a dictatorship is that they can arbitrarily set the consequences of these actions and set an example.

Of course this won't actually happen, foreign Countries wouldn't want to risk bad relations with China and the Chinese government wouldn't actually benefit from punishing a large part of their crucial industry who were effectively acting on their orders. They only need to be seen doing the "right" thing.


> They only need to be seen doing the "right" thing.

If it's really is just a handful of factories, the cost of doing the right thing isn't particularly high. It might just be easier than working hard to fake it :)

My point is that there is room for hope here.



From that article:

> “When the municipal environmental bureau runs a check, our local officers would call me and tell me to shut down my factory. Our workers just gather and hide together.”

So at-least they know it wrong, and inspectors are at-least pretending to do inspections. Maybe outside pressure will bring an end to with is likely local corruption.


That article has the title "Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators", which is an interesting angle that I didn't get from this article. I'm glad I read both.


Yeah I read the context a while ago (about there being a new source of CFCs around but nobody knew where from, yet).


Is this an instance where evidence can be collected by the relatively new EU Sentinel-5P satellite?

[1] http://www.euronews.com/2017/10/13/environmental-satellite-r...


As far as I know no CFC products are being proposed for Sentinel-5p (http://www.tropomi.eu/data-products/level-2-products) but it will certainly report ozone levels and profiles. In the original Nature paper reporting the detection of unreported CFC production, they used flask samples and numerical back-trajectory methods: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0106-2


The Chinese firms told the EIA they will continue to use CFC-11 because it’s "superior chemical for foams in house construction." The EIA estimates China’s CFC emissions exceed 2,645 million cubic pounds since 2004. I guess the 1989 CFC treaty they signed was a joke.

China also produces radioactive sludge from rare earth mines and grows world trade food crops not even 1/2 mile away.

Photos https://imgur.com/a/lsVb6X0

When you constantly pollute at the cost of everyone's health your culture is literally toxic. As a Chinese-American I'm sad to say I'm disgusted by the "worlds oldest civilization."


Enjoy your Nectar foam mattress made in China!


We need to boycott China. Their environmental negligence is going to harm generations to come. This is just selfish and short sighted.


Of course it was China.


Could you please not post unsubstantive comments here? Especially not nationalistically divisive ones.


Im sorry, it wasn't meant as such.


Did you watch the video?

https://player.vimeo.com/video/278835579

It says the government shutdown the factory due to environmental crackdown.

Jump to video 1:45




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