August 27, 2006

The Ozone Near-Miss

Lest you doubt the left’s pieties are now a religion, try this experiment: go up to an environmental activist and say “Hey, how about that ozone hole closing up?”
Frankly, I haven't a clue what Mark Steyn's trying to say here. Activists should be insulted that they helped ban CFCs and close the ozone hole? Er, okay... But this does remind me of something interesting I recently read about the topic.

In 1974, two chemists, Mario Molina and Frank Sherwood Rowland, discovered that CFCs could potentially destroy the ozone layer and expose the whole planet to ultraviolet rays. The media quickly picked up on the discovery, and annual growth in the production of CFCs dropped from 10 percent to zero, as the public started boycotting hairspray products with CFCs and the like, while the U.S. and European governments got together to control the production of CFCs in refrigeration under the Montreal Protocol. The ozone started recovering, albeit slowly.

Anyway, that story's well known. What I didn't know, though, was that if Molina and Rowland hadn't made their discovery when they did, and CFC production had continued growing at its projected rate, the entire ozone layer would have been severely depleted by about 1984. A mere decade! It was quite the close call. It's also noteworthy that, at the time, the principal CFC manufacturer attacked Molina and Rowland's evidence, only to let up after developing an alternative to CFCs. Conservative and industry "skeptics" held out for longer, although they too were eventually proven wrong. You'd think environmentalists would have serious bragging rights after this episode, but apparently not.
-- Brad Plumer 8:03 PM || ||