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Posted on: November 18, 2020

David Doniger | NRDC




NRDC: Climate change is not the first planetary pollution crisis we have faced. That distinction belongs to the depletion of the earth’s protective ozone layer. Thirty-two years ago, countries signed the world’s most successful environmental treaty, the Montreal Protocol. That’s the treaty that saved the ozone layer, saved millions of lives, and avoided a global catastrophe. We too often take the rescue of the ozone layer for granted. A whole generation has grown up not hearing much about it, except maybe once each September when the return of the Antarctic ozone hole gets a brief mention in the news. As we struggle to curb the carbon pollution that’s driving climate change, it’s worth remembering, and learning from, our success in solving the ozone crisis. As beautifully told in the new documentary Ozone Hole, the story begins nearly 50 years ago when two chemists, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, discovered that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) released from aerosol sprays could rise miles over our heads into the stratosphere. There, the sun’s harsh rays split the CFCs apart, triggering reactions that destroyed ozone molecules. As the ozone shield weakened, more dangerous UV rays could reach the earth’s surface. That would have condemned millions of people worldwide to die from skin cancer, go blind with cataracts, or suffer from immune diseases. Their discovery made big news and galvanized Americans. Aerosol sales plummeted, as millions of consumers switched to pump sprays and roll-ons. Some companies quickly redesigned their products. But others dug in. For more than a decade, the chemical companies that made CFCs reacted much like today’s coal and oil companies: They denied the science, attacked the scientists, and predicted economic ruin. But scientists and lawyers at NRDC—well before I got here—fought back. They helped Rowland and Molina tell their story to Congress and the news media. They pushed for bans on CFC aerosols here at home and pressed the United States to demand the same from other countries. Rowland Sherwood (left) in the lab at the University of California, Irvine, with Mario J. Molina, January 1975. Twenty years later, they shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
University of California Irvine Special Collections Library. In the late 1970s, the public demanded action and the government responded. Congress added ozone layer protections to the Clean Air Act, federal agencies mopped up the last aerosols, and the State Department began working with other nations on a treaty. In 1980, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an “endangerment” finding, saying that the other uses of CFCs in refrigerators, air conditioners, and industrial processes also posed a threat to the ozone layer and to public health. But when Ronald Reagan took office, things bogged down. Those of you who remember Anne Gorsuch and James Watt will know that protecting the ozone layer was not a priority in Reagan’s first years. The EPA did nothing, treaty talks stalled, and CFC use rebounded, so by the mid-1980s, production was back to its 1974 peak and rising fast. The danger was growing again. So I and an NRDC colleague, Alan Miller, sued the EPA under the Clean Air Act, because the agency was obligated by the endangerment finding to issue CFC regulations. Once William Ruckelshaus replaced Anne Gorsuch at the helm of Reagan’s EPA, the agency to its credit followed the science and settled our lawsuit with a plan of action. The EPA worked with NASA and other agencies to amass a compelling, peer-reviewed scientific assessment. The EPA brought together industry and environmentalists and others to agree on alternatives. The State Department restarted treaty talks. Congress held hearings in the mid-1980’s under the bipartisan leadership of Senators Max Baucus, John Chafee, and Al Gore, and Representatives Henry Waxman and Sherwood Boehlert, keeping the danger in the public eye. And the news media covered the story, without giving equal time to marginal skeptics. The surprise discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in the mid-1980’s added new urgency. Within a year, NASA scientists led by Susan Solomon, now at MIT, nailed the connection between CFCs and the ozone hole. By 1986, even the chemical industry acknowledged CFC limits were needed. In 1986, I proposed the idea of a 10-year global phaseout—to start using available alternatives immediately and to create market incentives to rapidly perfect and deploy solutions for the remaining uses. Again to their credit, Reagan’s next EPA administrator, Lee Thomas, and Secretary of State George Schultz put a phase-out plan on the international negotiating table. Yet not everybody was on board. Interior Secretary Donald Hodel urged Reagan to tell people to just wear hats and sunglasses. (My role in exposing Hodel’s “Rayban Plan” is told starting at the 31:30 mark in the Ozone Hole documentary.) His plan became a punchline. Reagan, who himself had had skin cancer, continued to back the treaty. And in September 1987, countries reached agreement on the Montreal Protocol. By 1990 it had been amended to become a global phaseout agreement. That same year Congress added strong ozone safeguards to the Clean Air Act. Every president since Reagan has supported the treaty; every country on earth, from China to East Timor, is now a full party. Rowland and Molina received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995. It is not easy to convey the scale of the catastrophe that was avoided, the disaster that did not happen. This is what NASA scientist Dr. Paul A. Newman has accomplished in his extraordinary analysis, “The World Avoided.” You can read about it here, and you can watch Dr. Newman’s presentation at an NRDC press event in 2012. (A more sophisticated animation of Dr. Newman’s findings is shown in Ozone Hole starting at 41:30.) Millions of lives saved. Hundreds of millions of cancers averted. Agricultural disaster avoided. These are big achievements. But our work is not done. Here are a few thoughts on what we still need to do under the Montreal Protocol and on lessons from the ozone treaty for the fight against climate change. First, as Dr. Newman has shown, the ozone layer is healing. While countries have committed phasing out the last ozone-depleting chemicals, we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure it happens on schedule. And while national compliance with Montreal commitments has been extraordinarily high, governments have to work harder to crack down on law-breakers and smugglers. If we stick with it, scientists expect the Antarctic ozone hole to close up for good later this century. Antarctic Ozone Hole 1980 through 2018, courtesy NASA Second, we can do more under Montreal to fight climate change. There’s already been a climate change bonus. The CFCs were also extremely powerful heat-trapping pollutants, and replacing them has slowed climate change by a decade. Had we not acted, the world would already be suffering even more severe droughts, wildfires, floods, and storms. The extreme weather we’re suffering year after year would have been even worse. But one group of CFC replacements, called HFCs, poses a big problem. HFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases, and Dr. Newman’s science panel has estimated that if we let them keep growing, by midcentury they’ll trap as much heat as CFCs did at their peak. Another scientific team showed that if left unchecked they could add nearly half a degree centigrade to global warming by 2100, making it even harder to hold the overall warming to 1.5 degrees, or even 2 degrees, beyond which climate impacts become catastrophic. Wisely, the Montreal Treaty gave the parties the responsibility to ensure that replacement chemicals are safe—and that includes ensuring that they don’t magnifying climate change. So 10 years ago, two groups of countries—a group of island nations led by Micronesia, and the United States, Canada, and Mexico—proposed using the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. It took a decade of education and tough negotiations, but in October 2016 the nations of the world agreed on the Kigali Amendment to phase down HFCs by 85 percent worldwide over the coming decades. Once again, countries came together following the proven formula under the Montreal Protocol, with all countries committing to cut their emissions, as developed countries take the lead and help fund action in developing countries. The NRDC team in Kigali when the HFC Amendment was adopted. The Kigali Amendment has been ratified by more than 60 countries and came into effect on January 1, 2019. The Trump administration said in 2017 that it supported the agreement’s goals and approach and was considering ratification. The HFC phase-down has broad industry and bipartisan support—13 GOP Senators wrote the president last year urging ratification and a bipartisan phase-down bill was also introduced. But the administration has made no decision yet. That’s better, of course, than Trump’s outright rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, but it still leaves the U.S. in limbo. So NRDC has embarked on getting leading states to take action. California passed HFC legislation last September, and Washington State is on the brink of enacting its own bill. New York, Maryland, and Connecticut have committed to HFC restrictions under existing laws, and many other states in the U.S. Climate Alliance are considering identical laws or regulations. There will be another bipartisan push for federal HFC legislation this year, with surprising allies running from NRDC to the National Association of Manufacturers. Meanwhile, the industry continues adopting climate-friendlier alternatives to HFCs. So, even in these difficult times, the Montreal Protocol stands out as proof positive that the earth’s nearly 200 countries can effectively cooperate to protect their citizens from a planetary pollution crisis—address climate change as well as ozone depletion. CONCLUSION: We saved the ozone layer. We can save the climate.

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GUARDIAN: Thirty years ago, all 197 countries got together to ban the gases damaging the Earth’s ozone layer. Now we need to unite to combat an even greater threat. What can we learn from 1989? The ban on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases has been an incredible success story. The ban on chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases has been an incredible success story.
Amid the anti-globalist chest-thumping of Brexit, Donald Trump, and the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, it may sound like the stuff of folklore. But there was a time in the recent past when all the countries of the world moved quickly to discuss a common threat, agreed an ambitious plan of action and made it work. The Montreal protocol, which came into effect 30 years ago, was drawn up to address the alarming thinning of the ozone layer in the Earth’s stratosphere. It was the first agreement in the history of the United Nations to be ratified by all 197 countries. Since it came into effect on 1 January 1989, more than 99% of the gases responsible for the problem have been eradicated and the “ozone hole” – which, in the late 80s, vied for headline space with the cold war, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Madonna – is receding in the sky and the memory. According to the latest UN study, the “ozone holes” (there are actually two: one above each pole) are healing at the rate of 1% to 3% a decade and will have completely vanished in the northern hemisphere by the 2030s and the southern hemisphere by the 2060s. This is cause for back-slapping, but also frustration that the world has not been able to unite as effectively over the climate and biodiversity crises. Here are half a dozen lessons.
The satellite animation of the changing atmosphere over the Antarctic first shown in 1985 appeared to show a growing “ozone hole”. This was a scientifically imprecise description of the thinning that was concentrated at both poles, but the metaphor – of the roof over our home planet being punctured – captured the public imagination and conveyed a sense of urgency. By contrast, many people feel distant from climate problems, which are usually illustrated with images of polar bears, filled with caveats and headlined with vague labels, such as “global warming”, which sounds benign (or even desirable for those living in cold countries), and “climate change”, which comes across as a statement of the obvious. When scientists raised the alarm about CFC, there was initially uncertainty about their impact on the atmosphere and the process, but the risks from sunlight weakly filtered by the ozone layer (cancer, crop failure, ocean ecosystem collapse) were so great that world leaders decided not to wait. Instead, they applied the “precautionary principle”: “If in doubt, cut it out.” Even before the science was settled, they started to act. This was also supposed to be the case with the climate, but lobbying to deny the validity of the science stymied action. Governments temporarily put aside cold-war hostilities and united rapidly around a solution to the ozone problem. From the first research in 1973, it took just 16 years for the world to discuss, agree and put in place a solution that reversed the trend. By comparison, scientific warnings that carbon dioxide emissions could disrupt the climate date back to at least 1962. Yet despite numerous international agreements on the subject since then (Rio 1992, Kyoto 1998, Copenhagen 2009, Paris 2015), emissions are still climbing. In the 80s, the environment was not yet the polarising issue it has become, but the dominant figures – including the US president, George HW Bush, the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher – still had to overcome business interests, treasury doubts and political short-termism to protect the future health of the planet. They refused to accept the delaying tactics of chemical companies that denied the science.

The phased ban on CFCs and dozens of other ozone-depleting gases was an economic blow to chemical firms, refrigerator producers and aerosol-spray manufacturers. Rich countries dealt with the job losses, technology upgrades and other economic consequences internally, but also provided support for poorer nations to manage the transition. From 1991 to 2005, pledges totalled $3.1bn. Similar arrangements exist for climate accords, but the sums need to be far higher because the actions are so much more expensive, the responsibility of industrialised nations is so much greater, and the impact on poor countries is incalculably worse.

The Montreal protocol has been updated numerous times as the science has sharpened and new climate goals have been incorporated. This month, the Kigali Amendment added a plan to cut hydrofluorocarbons by more than 80% over the next 30 years, which would reduce global heating by 0.4C by the end of the century. Under the Paris climate agreement, governments are supposed to ratchet up the ambition of their pledges to cut emissions, but most governments are failing to meet even their current inadequate targets. Looking at this list, a millennial might be tempted to conclude that the Montreal protocol was possible because it came about in a golden age when leaders were smarter, politicians more representative and populations more amenable to scientific persuasion. But, as anyone alive in 1989 knows, that is far too simple an explanation. The reality is that environmental action was easier then because the world had more ecological breathing room, capitalism was less dominant and the corporate push-back – and control over politics – was weaker. The ozone layer was a relatively simple fix compared with the climate, which is the biggest, most complex, multidimensional challenge humanity has ever faced. It is one thing confronting a handful of chemical firms, quite another to take on the world’s fossil fuel companies, car manufacturers, cement-makers and agribusiness conglomerates, representing hundreds of millions of jobs, trillions of dollars and 200-odd years of industrial development.

Bush, Thatcher, Gorbachev and the then Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, knew this in 1989, when global temperatures were already rising at an unnaturally rapid rate. A year earlier, in a US congressional testimony reported throughout the world, the then Nasa scientist Jim Hansen had declared “with 99% confidence” that this heating was a result of human activity.

They also knew the problem would be easier to solve then than 30 years in the future. Initially, Bush promised to lead a determined global response to climate change, but – as the short-term costs of a long-term solution became apparent – he balked. Instead of a comprehensive response, he merely strengthened research, paved the way for a drawn-out global negotiating process and complacently put his faith in future innovation and entrepreneurship. He may well have reassured himself that his environmental legacy was secure, thanks to action on ozone. But the climate can that he and others kicked forward 30 years ago is still clanking through the corridors of global conferences. It is a lot rustier now, but still basically the same half-response to a problem that becomes bigger and harder to solve with every year that passes. So this year’s anniversary of the implementation of the Montreal protocol should not just inspire nostalgia for 1989, but a curse on the first generation of leaders to dodge climate responsibility. And as we are already suffering the consequences of their failure, it should remind us that every day of delay has a massive and imminent cost. Each fraction of a degree of global heating that can be prevented will save lives, species and money. In our lifetimes, the ozone hole will be closed in the stratosphere while the increasingly angry beast of climate rages below. How angry is up to us. Montreal reminds us that nothing in politics is inevitable, that profits do not have to come before people, that global problems can have global solutions, that we can shape our own future. That depends on how far we are willing to push. In 1989, that wasn’t far enough. Nor has it been since. In 2003, the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, called the Montreal protocol “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”. Sadly, that still applies today. As the climate crisis escalates.

effects of ozone depletion | Ozone depletion, Ozone layer, Ozone


(ITEM#1) The assumed comparative equivalence of the Montreal Protocol imperative of changing refrigerants to readily available alternatives with the Paris Protocol climate action imperative of overhauling the world’s energy infrastructure from fossil fuels to renewables is inconsistent with the reality of these vastly different and incomparable proposals.

The cost of compliance with the Montreal Protocol worldwide was less than $10 billon. The corresponding estimates for climate action runs into many $trillions. The two actions also differ vastly in terms of the complexity and the hardships to be borne by citizens of countries that participate. The assumption that climate action and ozone action are comparable such that since the ozone action worked so should the climate action, is not supported by the realities of these vastly different situations. While CFC alternatives were readily available in the marketplace, fossil fuel alternatives are still in development. LINK: .

The comparison of the ozone depletion with climate change as equivalent environmental issues that have parallels such that the feasibility of climate action can be inferred from the feasibility of changing refrigerants is not possible.

(ITEM#2) The comparison of climate action with action against ozone depletion also assumes that the action against ozone depletion was a success. The success assumption comprises two different assumptions: first, it assumes that there was empirical evidence of ozone depletion in accordance with the Rowland Molina Theory of Ozone Depletion (RMTOD), and second, that the Montreal Protocol ozone action was able to attenuate the rate of depletion. In related posts we show that there was not then and there is not now any empirical evidence to support RMTOD. The theory implies that CFC emissions will cause a gradual decline in Global Mean Total Column Ozone GMTCO. No such decline is found in the data as shown in related posts on this site listed in (ITEM#3) below. The volatility of ozone levels over the South Pole, described as an ozone hole and submitted as empirical evidence for RMTOD, is not a creation of ozone depletion but of ozone distribution as described in a related post on this site: LINK: . Briefly, ozone forms only over the equator and it is distributed to the greater latitudes by the Brewer Dobson Circulation and other atmospheric circulations. The inefficiency and uncertainty of this distribution increases with latitude such that polar ozone levels tend to be most volatile to the point of periods of extreme depletion as seen in the South pole Ozone holes. The presentation of this phenomenon as evidence of RMTOD is an extreme form of scientific dishonesty.

(ITEM#3) Related posts on this site on the subject of the ozone depletion issue, the rise of UN global environmentalism, and the Montreal Protocol.

POST#1: A critical evaluation of Farman etal 1985, which stands to this day as the only empirical validation of the Rowland Molina Theory of Ozone Depletion (RMTOD).


POST#3: THE OZONE HOLE OF NASA: And the distinction between the ozone hole and the Rowland Molina Theory of Ozone Depletion






Saving the Ozone Layer - Celebrating 30 Years of the Montreal Protocol -  United States Department of State
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(ITEM#4) THE UGLY HISTORY OF THE OZONE CRISIS: The essential argument here by the NRDC and the Guardian is that since global humanity acting through the UN was able to come together in the Montreal Protocol to solve the ozone crisis then it should be possible to repeat that success and solve the climate crisis in the same manner. As for the reasons for the failure of the UN to put together the Montreal Protocol of climate change they speculate that the barrier to global climate treaty like the Montreal Protocol is the influence of the political right in America and of science denial funded by fossil fuel interests. This simplistic analysis of the comparison of the ozone depletion and climate change issues overlooks important complexities that make the comparison impossible. The assumption of rapid response and solution to the ozone crisis in the absence of science denial is inconsistent with the history of the ozone crisis. This history reveals that climate change and ozone depletion do have something in common and that is an overbearing form of advocacy and activism that has been driven to fearmongering. The ozone story goes back to the 1960s when there was a plan to develop high altitude supersonic airliners. The high cruising altitude of the SST raised alarms that SSTs would cause both climate change and ozone depletion. The alarm related to chemicals and aerosols in SST exhaust and the science of their impact on the atmosphere. The climate change theory was quietly shelved and forgotten and the alarm later focused on ozone depletion with a forecast of 40,000 additional cases of skin cancer every year in the USA alone.

In 1971 a theory was proposed that Nitric oxide (NOx) in the SST jet exhaust will cause ozone depletion because NOx acts as a catalyst to destroy ozone according to computer models. The model forecast said that there will be a 50% ozone depletion and a worldwide epidemic of skin cancer. Animals that venture out during daylight will become blinded by UV radiation. Ozone science deniers pointed out that the ozone had survived the NOx in the fireball of open air nuclear tests, but by 1972, the ozone depletion activism against the SST had won and the SST program died because we were too frightened by the ozone depletion scare. 1972 was the first “Montreal Protocol”.

In 1973 fear mongering ozone depletion scientists turned their attention to the proposed Space Shuttle program. The shuttle design included two solid fuel rockets that emit hydrogen chloride (HCl) which the scientists said would cause ozone depletion. The space shuttle miraculously survived the 1973 scare but the ozone depletion game was now in full gear, having tasted the power of being able to inflict debilitating fear of ozone depletion.

1973: In a now famous paper {Lovelock, Maggs, and Wade 1973}, he presented the discovery that air samples above the Atlantic ocean far from human habitation contained measurable quantities of HHC. This was he first of three key events that led to the Montreal Protocol and its worldwide ban on the production, sale, and atmospheric release of HHC and the rise of the UN as a global environmental regulator.

1974 a new candidate of ozone depletion was identified. Environmentalist James Lovelock studied the unrestricted release of halogenated hydrocarbons (HHC) into the atmosphere from their use as aerosol dispensers, fumigants, pesticides, and refrigerants. {Halogenated hydrocarbons (HHC) are also described as HFC}. Lovelock was concerned that these chemicals were man-made and they did not otherwise occur in nature and that they were chemically inert and that therefore their atmospheric release could cause irreversible accumulation.

1974: Since HHCs were non-toxic and environmental science knew of no harmful effects of HHC, the environmental concern expressed in Lovelock etal 1973 about their accumulation in the atmosphere remained an academic curiosity. This changed in 1974 with the publication of a paper by Mario Molina and Frank Rowland in which is contained a theory of ozone depletion by HHC. According to the Rowland-Molina theory of ozone depletion (RMTOD), the extreme volatility and chemical inertness of the HHCs ensure that there is no natural sink for these chemicals in the troposphere and that therefore once emitted they may remain in the atmosphere for 40 to 150 years and be transported by diffusion and atmospheric motion to the stratospheric ozone layer where they are subjected to solar radiation at frequencies that will cause them to dissociate into chlorine atoms and free radicals. Chlorine atoms can then act as a catalytic agent of ozone destruction in a chemical reaction cycle described in the paper. It proposed that such ozone depletion by HHC poses a danger because the ozone layer protects life on the surface of the earth from the harmful effects of UVB radiation. The description in the source documents above states that Rowland and Molina, discovered that CFCs released from aerosol sprays could rise miles over our heads into the stratosphere and destroy ozone molecules.This statement is false. They did not” discover this relationship between CFCs and ozone. They proposed it as a theory. It required validation by empirical evidence.

1985: The RMTOD was later considered to have been validated with empirical evidence in a 1985 paper by Farman etal . “Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClOx/NOx interaction J. C. Farman, B. G. Gardiner & J. D. Shanklin, Nature volume 315, pages207–210(1985) Abstract
Recent attempts to consolidate assessments of the effect of human activities on stratospheric ozone using one-dimensional models for 30° N have suggested that perturbations of total ozone will remain small for at least the next decade. Results from such models are often accepted by default as global estimates. The inadequacy of this approach is here made evident by observations that the spring values of total ozone in Antarctica have now fallen considerably. The circulation in the lower stratosphere is apparently unchanged, and possible chemical causes must be considered. We suggest that the very low temperatures which prevail from midwinter until several weeks after the spring equinox make the Antarctic stratosphere uniquely sensitive to growth of inorganic chlorine, ClX, primarily by the effect of this growth on the NO2/NO ratio. This, with the height distribution of UV irradiation peculiar to the polar stratosphere, could account for the O3 losses observed. This paper was the third and final key event in the sequence Lovelock to RMTOD to Farman, that led to the Montreal Protocol. It established that the atmospheric accumulation of HHC found by Lovelock (1) is not harmless by providing the RMTOD theoretical framework (2) that links HHC to ozone depletion and finally with the theory validated by empirical evidence in Farman etal.

THE MEDIA: The media then stepped in with an intensive exercise in fear based activism to promote compliance with the Montreal Protocol. Here are some examples: March 10 1987: Skin cancer is increasing in the United States at a near epidemic rate, outstripping predictions made as recently as five years ago, a research physician testified Monday before a House panel examining threats to the Earth’s protective ozone layer. Malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased 83 percent in the last seven years alone. Melanoma is increasing faster than any other cancer except lung cancer in women.: March 12, 1987 Consensus among scientists: If harmful UV radiation reached the Earth, it would cause monumental problems, including rampant skin cancer and eye cataracts, retarded crop growth, impairment of the human immune system and damaging radiation doses to all forms of life. Although many Americans and the people of other nations are still not listening or taking the ozone threat seriously, the Earth’s protective shield is getting thinner and developing mysterious holes. There is a growing consensus among scientists that ozone destruction is caused by the accumulation in the upper atmosphere of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a class of industrial chemicals used for refrigerants, aerosols, insulation, foam packaging and other uses.: August 23, 1987: Ozone Hole: Scientists have begun the largest study ever of the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere by sending a modified spy plane on missions 12 1/2 miles above Antarctica. The flights this past week were part of a $10-million project being carried out by a 120-member team of scientists, engineers and technicians who hope to decipher a mysterious ozone hole that has been detected over Antarctic each winter for the past eight years.

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Comment: The UN is unfit for the 21st century – The Update

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NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. We combine the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 700 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild. {AN ADMISSION TO ACTIVSM BIAS}.

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