Thirty years ago, scientists realized that chemicals – chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs – were accumulating high in the atmosphere. CFCs are wonderfully inert around humans and were widely used as propellants in spray bottles and fluids in refrigerators. But in the upper atmosphere they reacted with nature’s ozone to destroy the chemical that reduces dangerous UV radiation arriving from space.
In 1974, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland, two chemists at the University of California, Irvine, published an article in Nature detailing the threats to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases. At the time, CFCs were commonly used in spray bottles and as coolants in many refrigerators, and they were rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere.
Eleven years later, their predictions were confirmed – the ozone hole was allowing extra UV radiation to hit Earth’s surface and increase skin cancer rates.
The groundbreaking research—for which they were awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry—concluded that the atmosphere only had a “finite capacity for absorbing chlorine” atoms in the stratosphere.
We can do good!
I hope this heartens people who say we humans can’t repair the damage we do. Scientific models proved correct. We can discover a problem and work internationally on a solution! Ozone is one example.
As one researcher said, “It gives us hope that we shouldn’t be afraid to tackle large environmental problems.”
Thanks to nationalgeographic.com for the quote above. Other outlets are covering the good news, too.