The Montreal Protocol Didn't Just Save The Ozone Layer – It Saved The World Too

The shrinking ozone hole over Antarctica. Stuart Rankin/Flickr; CC BY-NC 2.0

Here’s the thing though: CFCs don’t just eat away at stratospheric ozone. They’re also remarkably effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere, which makes them a GHG.

Carbon dioxide is the most dangerous of them all, because it can last for up to two centuries in the atmosphere. Methane breaks down a lot faster, but traps around 36 times more heat than carbon dioxide. CFCs, however, can trap up to 10,000 times more heat.

This means that even small emissions of CFCs can have an enormous effect. Fortunately, it looks as if the worldwide ban hasn’t just saved the ozone layer, but its helped humanity stem the tide of climate change.

The story isn’t over just yet. Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, were manufactured to replace the banned coolants. Although these were recently hit with a global ban too, plenty of HFCs still exist in the world, and they are as damaging as their predecessors. If they’re successfully destroyed, and coolant systems are properly managed, 168 billion tonnes (185 billion tons) of equivalent carbon dioxide could be prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2050.

In any case, the lesson here is clear. The Montreal Protocol was an example of the planet coming together to act on the behest of the world’s scientists. It’s a crying shame that not every nation on Earth is behaving the same way when it comes to the Paris accords.

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America alone. Mike Demidov/Shutterstock

 

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