Issues

Ozone Layer Depletion

Summary

An excerpt from Green to Gold (pages 53-54):

"Like climate change, the depletion of the ozone layer is an inescapably global issue. Emissions of CFCs from anywhere spread everywhere. No country can address the problem on its own. With a thinned ozone layer, the world becomes a more dangerous place, with reduced agricultural productivity, higher risk of skin cancer, and other health problems. One EPA study pegged the potential damage at 150 million cases of skin cancer and three million deaths during the course of the 21st century at an economic cost of $6 trillion. These facts and the solid science behind the findings of a growing ozone hole led the global community to respond. ."

The Science

Ozone exists in the stratosphere to protect the earth from the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Since the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic in the mid 1980s the world has united in response to the accumulation of these chemicals in the environment. Research and policy was propelled by the need to regulate the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which contribute to the depletion ozone in the atmosphere. In perhaps the largest global environmental success in history, most of the world's countries signed on to the "Montreal Protocol" and agreed to phase out the use of ozone depleting chemicals in a great environmental success. Since then the accumulation of ozone depleting gases has decreased, the hole in the ozone layer is no longer growing bigger, and we can realistically hope for the future recovery of the ozone layer.

Business response and resources

Once the effects of CFCs on the depletion of the ozone layer became universally accepted, companies got on board with researchers to find alternatives to aerosol and harmful chemicals used for refrigeration and continue to implement the use of these alternatives.

  • Dupont's response
  • Perusing the awards given by the EPA to corporations, groups and individuals each year for their work on ozone depletion can provide a sense of the work being done to respond to this environmental issue.