Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A depressing climate crisis update to all: When we fixed the ozone problem we made the greenhouse gas problem worse. Can humans solve the problem?

If you are old enough you might remember that hole in the ozone layer that appeared over Antarctica in the 1980s. In 2019, NASA announced the "ozone hole" was the smallest ever since it was first discovered in 1982.

The main cause of ozone depletion and the ozone hole is manufactured chemicals, especially manufactured halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants and foam-blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbons referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). We fixed it through the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which bans the production of CFCs, halons and other ozone-depleting chemicals.

So we can fix things, right? Uh, well....

We first world humans didn't give up anything to fix it. We can't and don't. Instead we substituted hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) so that we didn't have to go a day without refrigeration or air conditioning and whatever. And third world folks embraced our selfishness brilliance by using HFC's in their expanding economies.

Funny thing. HFC-23 used in refrigerators, inhalers and air conditioners turns out to be a potent greenhouse gas. And after folks around the world agreed in 2015 to drastically reduce emissions of HFC, a study published this month in Nature Communications titled Increase in global emissions of HFC-23 despite near-total expected reductions tells us "atmospheric observations show that emissions have increased and in 2018 were higher than at any point in history."

Of course as noted here previously leaks of the little-known gas Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom and it is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2).

And as noted here previously all the devices used by GenZ's and Millennials, and the rest of us, are supported by an infrastructure that spews out carbon dioxide, a key source of temperature increases in the past 10 years.

It really seems like when addressing environmental problems we don't understand what we are doing and what needs to be done.

It is tempting to accept the point-of-view of Donald Trump expressed at this week at World Economic Forum in Switzerland:

    This is not a time for pessimism, this is a time for optimism. To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune tellers.
    They want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty.

The problem is neither Trump nor I will live to see the real impact of the climate crisis. Truthfully it will be those of GenZ and their children and grandchildren. Speaking for them in Switzerland, Greta Thunberg said: “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour,and we’re asking you to act as if you love your children more than anything else.”

Who is right? Perhaps we should consult some Koalas in Australia....

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