Talking Points on the Environment #12

The Holes in Ozone Alarmists' Dire Predictions

Chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs), manufactured chemicals commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners, will be banned by 1996. The reason? They are believed to be responsible for destroying ozone in our upper atmosphere, a substance that shields us from the sun's ultraviolet rays. But it now appears that the rush to ban CFCs was premature, based on faulty assumptions:

Assumption: Destruction of ozone in the upper atmosphere will lead to greater human exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and increase the number of cancer deaths. Reality: Malignant melanoma, a deadly form of cancer, is believed to be linked to UV-A -- or ordinary blue sunlight -- which is not blocked by the ozone layer. UV-B rays are blocked by ozone, but have little if any impact on the incidence of melanoma.

Assumption: CFCs are to blame for ozone depletion. Reality: The impact of CFCs on the ozone layer is not fully known. Changes in weather patterns, the eruption of volcanos, changes in ultraviolet output of the sun linked to the 10-11 year solar cycle and other natural phenomena can, like CFCs, inhibit the production of ozone.

Assumption: The Antarctic "ozone hole" is a relatively new phenomenon, first discovered by scientists in 1985, and thus likely linked to CFC use. Reality: Britain's Gordon Dobson observed ozone holes over the Antarctic in 1956 and 1957, long before CFCs were in widespread use. Some Norwegians claim to have spotted deep holes in the ozone layer in the 1940s.

Assumption: The cost of banning CFCs -- up to $2 trillion -- is justified given the seriousness of the ozone problem. Reality: Excluding the polar regions, the per decade decline in ozone concentration is 3%, by one estimate. This would mean an increase in surface UV-B of about 10%. The same increase in UV-B exposure would be experienced simply by moving 60 miles closer to the equator -- perhaps from New York to Philadelphia. Further, since accurate ozone measurements have only been collected since the late 1970s, it is not possible to establish a long-term trend toward ozone depletion.

Assumption: Ozone "holes" are permanent. Reality: New ozone is created all the time: Ozone is formed when ultraviolet radiation breaks up oxygen molecules (O2) into oxygen (0) atoms. The freed oxygen atoms then join with oxygen molecules to form ozone, O3.

Information from: Dr. S. Fred Singer in Chemical and Engineering News, July 12, 1993; "The Ozone Crisis" by Dr. Sallie Baliunas (George Marshall Institute, Washington, D.C.), May 17, 1994; CFACT Citizen Outlook (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Washington, D.C.), May/June 1994.

Issue Date: September 14, 1994.

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #12, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 Tel. (202) 543-4110, Fax (202)543-5975, [email protected], http://www.nationalcenter/inter.net. For more information about Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #12 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]


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