We can all breath a little easier. In the next 50 years the ozone hole could be completely eliminated. During the 1980s the most publicized environmental topic and critical issue was the depletion of the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Despite millions of dollars spent by skeptics, corporate interests and political operatives, the scientific evidence and commitment through international cooperation averted a global disaster of epic proportions. The ozone hole is still there, it will be a slow recovery but the chemical source of the problem has been banned world wide.
“With ozone depletion, mankind has demonstrated the capability to alter the world’s atmosphere” says Larry Flynn a physical scientist at NOAA. “The world’s nations realized that it was not a limitless expanse but that human activity could have large important impacts on the atmosphere.”
In 1985 twenty nations recognized and agreed that there was a threat to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosol cans and refrigerants. In 1987 forty three countries signed the Montreal Protocol to limit CFC production at 1986 levels. Convincing evidence from Antarctic scientific expeditions resulted in a strengthened resolution at a London meeting in 1989 in which participants agreed to phase out CFCs and halons entirely by the year 2000. At a 1992 meeting in Copenhagen the phase out date was moved up to 1996. By 2011 every nation in the world had signed the Montreal Protocol.
Larry Flynn at NOAA says “Atmospheric ozone is no longer declining because concentrations of ozone depleting chemicals stopped increasing and are now decreasing.”
Motivated by Scientific observations from the laboratory, the ground, aircraft and satellites the Montreal Protocol first advanced limits and then banned the chlorine and bromine based chemicals that destroy atmospheric ozone. The international agreement likely saved the world from environmental crisis while setting an example for how to develop and implement environmental policy.
The cooperation and framework developed at the Montreal Protocol is still needed to move forward climate action today although the same conservative think tanks, corporate profiteers and sympathetic politicians are obstructing and stalling action on global warming by using the same techniques and strategies used to cause obstruction and debate on the CFC-ozone hole.
The first warning that human generated chlorofluorocarbons could cause serious harm to the Earth’s protective ozone layer came from two chemists, Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina at the University of California, Irvine in a scientific paper they published June 28, 1974. They warned that increased Ultra Violet UV-B light reaching the surface of the Earth would greatly increase skin cancer and cataracts. The stratosphere would significantly cool potentially causing destructive climate changes. In the 1970s the CFC industry employed over 1/2 million people and was worth 8 billion dollars in the U.S. Skeptics attacked the theory and there was immediate resistance from the halo carbon industry.
It is interesting to note the methods of resistance that have become standard practice to obstruct environmental protection. Recognizing the techniques and types of pseudo-science, slight of hand and public relations tricks is important to know to form educated opinions. In the article The Skeptics vs the Ozone Hole Jeffry Masters, Director of Meterololgy at Weather Underground, Inc. compares strategies between the problem of ozone depletion 30 years ago and greenhouse gases today:
Launch A Public Relations Campaign Disputing The Evidence. The aerosol industry launched a PR barrage and the media picked “news stories” directly from industry press releases. DuPont which produced 1/4 of the world’s CFCs spent millions on full page newspaper ads. The symbol of Chicken Little claiming “the sky is falling” was widely used with effect.
Find And Pay A Respected Scientist To Argue Persuasively Against The Threat. CFC industries hired the world’s largest public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton who organized a barnstorming speaking tour for a sympathetic British scientist.
Use Non-Peer Reviewed Scientific Publications or Industry Funded Scientists Who Do Not Publish For Peers.
Trumpet Discredited Scientific Studies And Myths.
Point To Substantial Scientific Uncertainty And The Certainty Of Economic Loss.
Use Data From A Local Area To Support Your Views, And Ignore The Global Evidence.
Disparage Scientists, Saying Their Uncertain Predictions Of Doom Are In Order To Get Research Funding.
Disparage Environmentalists, Claiming They Are Hyping Environmental Problems In Order To Further Their Ideological Goals.
Claim It Is Unfair To Require Regulatory Action In The U.S., As It Would Put The Nation At An Economic Disadvantage.
Claim More Research Is Needed Before Action Can Be Taken.
Argue That It Is Less Expensive To Live With The Effects. In 1987 The Reagan administration advocated a “personal protection plan” (two bottles of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses) as an alternative to controlling CFC emissions.
Jeffry Masters concludes “The skeptics have trotted out the same bag of tricks used in the CFC-ozone depletion debate, this time to delay any response to the threat of global warming.”
In 1985 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina who first published warnings about chlorofluorocarbons. The citation from the Nobel Committee credited them with helping to deliver the Earth from a potential environmental disaster.
The Earth’s atmosphere is still threatened today. A handful of skeptics with voices amplified by powerful public relations machines are a threat. Learn to recognize their techniques and strategies and expose them.
For the Beauty of the Earth, Dohn.