Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ozone Holes & Climate Change

As this Washington Post article explains, what we thought would work to solve one problem—which it seems to have done—has made another worse; which should remind us to be very careful playing around with something as large, as complicated (and about which we still know very little) as the global climate, until we are pretty sure we know what we are doing.

An excerpt.

“This is not the funny kind of irony: Scientists say the chemicals that helped solve the last global environmental crisis -- the hole in the ozone layer -- are making the current one worse.

“The chemicals, called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), were introduced widely in the 1990s to replace ozone-depleting gases used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foam.

“They worked: The earth's protective shield seems to be recovering.

“But researchers say what's good for ozone is bad for climate change. In the atmosphere, these replacement chemicals act like "super" greenhouse gases, with a heat-trapping power that can be 4,470 times that of carbon dioxide.

“Now, scientists say, the world must find replacements for the replacements -- or these super-emissions could cancel out other efforts to stop global warming.”