Blame C02? - Part 3 - Chlorofluorocarbons...


There's a lot of arguments in these blogs of mine that question whether we should be paying so much attention to carbon dioxide when considering the phenomenon of global warming and in particular whether we should be taxed on the amount of carbon we individuals consume. I am concerned that the human race is heading down the wrong path in its attempt to bring things back to some kind of "normal" thinking they can  eliminate the hazards that we are facing every day from an angry ecosystem bent on revenge. 

Just to be clear - I don't believe the science supposedly supporting the "greeenhouse effect" and I particularly don't support the viewpoint that C02 should targeted as the culprit behind the phenomenon. If climate is indeed changing there are myriad reasons to consider besides a simplistic linear relationship between my car's poor mileage and overheating of the earth.  It's way more complex than that, perhaps so complex that we will never really be able to understand how our climate / weather works, let alone be able to predict what it will do in the future. 

But let's pretend that I do believe in global warming science - that I'm not a "denier" - as such, I would again suggest that we're chasing the wrong culprit. Instead of freaking out over "natural" gases that have always been present in our atmosphere such as methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide let's take a hard look at the one completely non natural, totally artificial  global warming gas that we've been releasing upstairs for literally decades! 

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), also commercially know as Freon,  have  been long credited with being an earth warming gas, and have been measured as accumulating in our upper atmosphere where they were originally linked to ozone depletion and thus to warming as far back as 1980 when an International Agreement called the Montreal Protocol was initiated in order to eliminate their use entirely.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion.

CFC'S are basically used as refrigerants and a moment's thought can make one realize just how widespread this material became over the decades we have used it post WWII as the Boomers were born and the quality of life zoomed up dramatically. Think of the 50's, a period where households were being sold "new" appliances such as refrigerators (I actually remember Ice block coolers as a child) and freezers, and the commercial world of food production using massive freezing and holding facilities. Add their leakage and loss on trashing of compressors to overt use of freon as a fire suppressant (Halon) sprayed openly on fires, propellant in all kinds of spray cans and injected directly into plastic liquids to create insulation foams, mats, beds etc. Usage was massive and little notice was taken of the indiscriminant release until the concern about antarctic Ozone depletion was reported in 1985 and the link was made to the presence of escaped CFC's in the atmosphere. 

At first, our concern was for the loss of protection from UV rays reaching the earth and motivation to avoid skin cancer was used to justify taking action against CFC's. Since then CFC's were added to the list of greenhouse gases and is now accredited with warming the earth by preventing its heat from escaping through the upper stratospheres. The mechanism by which it "does" this is reported to be the same as the other greenhouse gases (ie. catching heat laden infra red waves leaving Earth on their way to space and then sending them back down again) only it apparently does it way more efficiently than the others (up to 25000 times the power of C02). 

(note: the literature is abound with documents, papers, charts and opinions on how the greenhouse effect "works" or "doesn't work". The bottom line is that we have to recognize that it is really just a theory, and as such is rightfully subjected to debate. I've told you I don't accept the theory and documentation supporting it already, but felt I needed to do it again because the flow of the blog seems to make it look as though I do. This is meant as a "what if" discourse and I don't really claim it is true or not. Make up your own mind.)

So, CFC's, an important material used in our global infrastructure, has been shown to leave the earth's surface when released, travel up to the outer fringes of our stratosphere and react with our protective ozone layer that holds back UV light which could prove detrimental to all life if it comes down too concentrated. 

It also has been linked to the greenhouse effect and is indeed considered one of the major gases causing it. This really doesn't have anything to do with its behaviour towards ozone and presumably refers to similar behaviour as C02, N2O, CH3 in the troposphere. Here, CFC's would be released, mixed and distributed throughout the troposphere relatively evenly, while also migrating up high enough that they come into contact with ozone molecules (perhaps requiring two years to get there) in the stratosphere.While present in the lower atmosphere they take the same action as the warming gases, only with much more severity, as much as 25000 times the activity of the baseline carbon dioxide.

Substitutions have been made for the worst types, the Freons, but there is still lots of the banned CFC's in our environment, leaking upstairs. 

This is occurring in spite of the Montreal Protocol to which countries such as China have signed on. Have they eliminated it? Have they tried? Well, we're not sure as we see stories such as the one flagged in the button below. Apparently levels have dropped, and then are rising again, and the source appears to be, you guessed it, China.  We just can't help ourselves, can we?