Thin ozone year

2006-10-04

in Politics, Science, The environment

One example that comes up again and again in the environmental literature is ozone depletion. It emerged as the unexpected effect of the use of a new class of chemicals. It required global regulation to check. And we seem to have succeeded in dealing with the problem, through the development of substitutes and the operation of the Montreal Protocol.

One flaw in this perspective: after a period of remission, the ozone hole seems to be back at its largest previous size: 29.5 million square kilometers in diameter, around the south pole. This was reported in a statement issued last Friday by the UN weather agency. All told, we still have about 39.8 million tons less stratospheric ozone than before Thomas Midgley invented chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The point is not that the Montreal Protocol has failed (Kofi Annan called the latter “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”), but that the ozone layer has not yet recovered sufficiently to be able to deal with other adverse effects – such as an unusually cold and wet stratospheric winter. The general point is simply that, even when technical substitutes and international legal instruments are created, environmental issues can rarely be shelved on a permanent basis.

More on this from the International Herald Tribune.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. October 4, 2006 at 3:10 pm

Is more water vapour in the stratosphere the product of air travel?

Milan October 5, 2006 at 2:15 am

Planes do add water vapour to the atmosphere, but I don’t know if it affects ozone. I would like to know, so please tell me if you find out.

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