The February 17, 1992 edition of time magazine’s cover story started like this: “The world now knows that danger is shining through the sky. The evidence is overwhelming that the earth’s stratospheric ozone layer-our shield against the sun’s hazardous ultraviolet rays-is being eaten away by man made chemicals far faster than any scientist had predicted.” Now this is interesting rhetoric, but there is no evidence here to support this article at all. Where are the facts? The studies? What I will put before you is the facts, then make your own decision. In order to understand if the ozone layer is really disappearing, we need to understand what it is and what it does. When ultraviolet light from the sun hits the earth’s atmosphere, it hits and divides the oxygen molecule (O2). Each molecule then attaches with other oxygen molecules to form O3. O3 is ozone. So when ozone is formed, harmful rays from the sun are absorbed.
The O3 molecule is very reactive and it bonds easily with other molecules it the atmosphere. When and oxygen atom from the ozone reacts with a chloride ion from chlorine monoxide, the ozone molecule is destroyed. So chlorine monoxide is an ozone destroyer. There is always a certain amount of chlorine monoxide in the atmosphere. It is important to remember that ozone is constantly being created and destroyed in the atmosphere. The amount of ozone in the atmosphere is based on these reactions. There are many factors that influence the amount of reactions like season, latitude, and solar cycle. Because of these factors ozone can vary wildly each day. In the northern latitudes there can be up to 40% difference than the day before. And in the equator regions, there might be no variance at all. Unfortunately, the Congress passed a bill reducing the production of CFC’s based on a NASA document.
This document only told half of the truth. It said that chlorine was high in an area. What it didn’t say was that a couple of days before and after, the levels returned to normal. Now there is a ban on CFC’s that will affect many across the nation. It has been proven that chloride causes ozone to break down. However, we don’t know where it all comes from. The banning of CFC’s is based upon a hypothesis that says man made chloride is the most abundant and harmful chloride. In fact, no breakdowns of the CFC freon, has been identified in the atmosphere. We will look more into the importance of freon later. The human population produces about 1.1 million tons of CFCs a year, which means there is about 750,000 tons of chloride available from all CFC’s every year. This may sound like a lot, but it isn’t.
Over 600 million tons of chloride per year is put into the atmosphere from sea water evaporating. Plus millions of tons more with the eruption of volcanoes. In fact, when Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in 1813, it spewed 211 million tons of chloride into the air. At the worlds peak production of chloride, it would take us 282 years to equal this one eruption. Another good example is Mount Erebus in Antarctica. It throws out 1,000 tons of chloride daily. Annualy, it spews 50 times mans annual chloride production. It is also located 10 kilometers upwind of where ozone measurements are made. In this spot, the amount of chloride in the air is measured at 50 to 60 times higher than the chloride that comes from man. Now why are CFC’s important? Well freon plays a major role in refrigeration. It was General Motors that discovered this substitute. This was in response to an accident in a Cleveland hospital that killed 100 people when the refrigeration leaked.
Substitutes for freon have proven to be toxic, flammable, or corrosive. If we went back to the old refrigeration methods, it would cost billions of dollars. We would need to redesign the entire refrigeration systems in home, industrial, and commercial equipment. Replacing just the refrigerated transport for food would cost over 150 billion dollars. Estimates have put the cost of banning CFC’s for refrigeration at 800 dollars per person, per year. Not a lot more can be said about the Ozone layer. You must decide for yourself if you think it is worth it to ban something that doesn’t destroy the ozone. It is nature in fact, that puts all of the chlorine in the atmosphere, and it is nature that makes ozone vary wildly. It is a natural cycle of nature, and nothing we can do will stop it.