Think the Ozone Threat is Gone? Think Again

Researchers at the University of East Anglia in cooperation with other universities and publishing this month in the journal Nature Geoscience say they have identified four new ozone damaging man made gases, three types of CFCs and one HCFC, that could damage the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.

To determine this, the researchers looked at air samples captured in the 1970s by, for instance, analyzing air bubbles that have been trapped in Greenland’s snowpacks, as well as analyzing samples that were originally harvested by aircraft flying 13 miles above Europe.

The newly identified compounds, which until now had not been recorded, are not among the 13 CFCs and HCFCs that are currently regulated under the United Nation’s landmark 1987 Montreal Protocol which serves to control and in many cases ban CFC production. Furthermore, samples show that none of the compounds were present before the 1960s, meaning that (relatively) modern manufacturing may be the culprit.

In total, the researchers believe that around 74,000 tons of the four gases are now present in the atmosphere. That’s only a fraction of the millions of tons of CFC gases that were released during the 1980s, but the concentration of at least two of the gases appears to be rising quickly, meaning that current restrictions aren’t delaying them.

Where could they be coming from if not from manufacturing, then? Well, because of the Montreal Protocol’s quite broad exemptions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the CFC and HCFCs identified by this study aren’t still being emitted legally. There’s also the possibility that they could be being produced illegally as well.

All that aside, the researchers believe that at least one of the CFCs, known CFC113a, may be being used as a component of agricultural pesticides, something which does not necessarily fall under the Montreal Protocol or other restrictions.

The gases also appear to be strong insulating gasses. As CFCs are many more times insulating than carbon dioxide, that’s a problem because they could trap heat and raise global temperatures if enough of the gases got into the atmosphere. Also, the researchers believe that there are potentially dozens more compounds that have yet to be properly identified, meaning that collectively they could pose a serious threat not just to the ozone layer itself but also undermine the fight against global warming.

“There are definitely more out there,” Dr Johannes Laube, at the University of East Anglia, is quoted as saying. “We have already picked up dozens more. They might well add up to dangerous levels, especially if we keep finding more.”

Despite these scary sounding facts, it’s important to put the issue in context: there’s no immediate danger and, fortunately, this research has identified the compounds early on so they can be tracked down and, hopefully, action can be taken.

“While these newly discovered gases can, in theory, cause some damage to the ozone layer, their combined abundance is over 500 times smaller than that of the main ozone-destroying compounds in the 1990s,” points out co-researcher Martyn Chipperfield, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds. “These new observations do not present concern at the moment, although the fact that these gases are in the atmosphere and some are increasing needs investigation.”

What should we take from this research, then? The main thing that the researchers appear to want to get across is that ozone depletion is not something consigned to the history books. It is still a threat and there is no room for complacency.

The researchers are also calling on international governments to look again at the landmark Montreal Protocol and discuss how it can be improved as, despite the improvements that have been made in recent years, its reach is not yet wide or tough enough.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

And now that we have convinced ourselves that we are a paradigm to follow,

and more importantly, convinced the a good portion of rest of the world that we are a paradigm to follow,

by force, collusion, and conspiracy,

how can we profit the most from it?

pam w.
pam w4 years ago

Thus spake the GOP!

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

Who cares about tomorrow?

Tomorrow is an unknown.

Can we make a big profit now?

Hell yes, and making a profit now is a given.

Michael T.
Michael T4 years ago

It is because it is a new paradigm, about how a government can be bought and sold.

Capitalism trumps freedom and democracy, and this is how it is done in the best way possible.

Legislators are bought. They represent a new smaller but wealthier class of people, and have for many decades, it is just more obvious. They no longer represent all the people, they represent those who can give the legislators the most wealth and power.

At present each representative in America represents some 735,000 citizens, in most other parts of the free world the ratio is 1 representative to between 90,000 and 110,000. So Americans are by and large underrepresented. Even if each American gave their representative $20 it would only equal 1.47 million dollars. That doesn't even come close to the amount of money representatives receive through lobbyists, and special interests.

With entities like ALEC infusing campaigns with millions of dollars, their opponents must raise similar sums to be in the running. It isn't the people who are buying these elections, it is those who have money.

Once you are elected, do you think you are going to forget about the people that got you in there?

Who are you going to represent in passing laws?

Steven Gregory Davis

Pretty scary stuff...Just goes to show, WE have to remain VIGILANT...What I still can't believe, is that the U.S.A. is still one of the worst culprits, but at the same time unwilling to sign/ratify international environmental agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol!!! Go Figure?? We pride ourselves on being a PARADIGM for all the world to follow...Why is that???

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

No excuse to stop safeguarding our homeland and ourselves

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Donald B.
Donald B4 years ago

Yikes! Let's hope we can convince our leaders to take action on this issue quickly. Scientific research that shows how our actions affect our world around us is so important. Let's all hug a scientist today!