]]]]]]]]]]    OZONE CHICKEN LITTLES ARE AT IT AGAIN    [[[[[[[[[[
                      By Robert W. Pease              (3/26/1989)

     From The Wall Street Journal, 23 March 1989, p. A24:3

          [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

(Mr. Pease is professor emeritus  of  physical climatology at the
University of California, Riverside.)

   The news  earlier this  month that  several European countries
and  the  U.S.  have  agreed to  phase  out  the  use  of chloro-
fluorocarbons by  the year  2000 brings  before us  yet again the
questionable theory that CFCs cause depletion of the ozone layer.
   Atmospheric chemist F. Sherwood Rowland [1], of the University
of California, Irvine, formulated the  theory in the early 1970s.
His  speculations, quoted  widely in  reports about  this month's
international conference  hosted by Margaret  Thatcher in London,
have gained so  much momentum over  the years that  they have now
become the basis for decisions that  would deprive us of the only
inexpensive and effective refrigerants  we have for refrigeration
and air conditioning.   This is not  because of scientific proof,
but the result of the  constant reiteration of disaster scenarios
that range from skin cancer to DNA damage.
   Pronouncements in the past few  weeks give the impression that
all atmospheric scientists are believers, which is far from true.
Many  of  us  are still  skeptical  because  of incompatibilities
between the theory and what we know about the ozone layer:
   * The Rowland  theory ignores the  equilibrium nature of ozone
in the layer.   The ozone molecules  are constantly being created
and  destroyed  -- both  quite  naturally  -- by  the  very short
wavelengths of  ultraviolet light  from the  sun.  The  amount of
ozone in  the layer depends  upon an equilibrium  between the two
processes.  This equilibrium varies  markedly both over the globe
and throughout the year.
   At very high altitudes a  disrupted equilibrium is restored in
a matter of  minutes; at lower  levels in the  stratosphere, in a
matter  of weeks  or months.   In any  event, repair  takes place
rather quickly.   Depletion of ozone  can occur  only by reducing
the  equilibrium  density  of ozone  molecules.   This  makes for
relatively insignificant depletions.  No doubt many CFC molecules
have reached the ozone  layer, but it is  unlikely both that they
are depleting the ozone to the extent the activists say, and that
such damage, even if it existed, would take centuries to repair.
   * Since the same narrow  band of ultraviolet light breaks down
both CFCs, releasing their  ozone-destroying chlorine, as well as
oxygen, creating  ozone, there  is a  ``competition'' between the
two processes for  this necessary solar  energy.  The probability
that an oxygen molecule  will be broken apart,  rather than a CFC
molecule, depends upon the relative abundance of the two gases in
the  ozone  layer.   Calculations   based  on  high-altitude  CFC
samplings  and  data   supplied  by  the   National  Oceanic  and
Atmospheric  Administration  show   60,000  ozone  molecules  are
created for every chlorine atom released from a CFC molecule.
   With this probability, how can  the equilibrium density of the
ozone layer be  materially reduced?  In  other words, the paucity
of measurable proof of depletion  may be because depletion is not
actually  occurring.   It is  of  interest to  note  that surface
measurements   by   the    National   Oceanic   and   Atmospheric
Administration indicate that the total  amount of ozone above the
U.S. is actually increasing.
   *  Unable  to  measure  depletion  in  an  unambiguous manner,
advocates of the theory have taken the ``hole'' in the layer over
Antarctica  as  indirect   proof  of  loss   of  the  layer  over
midlatitudes.   However,  papers at  last  summer's international
ozone  conference  at  Snowmass,  Colo.,  cast  doubt  that  this
phenomenon  is a  mirror of  global  ozone decline.   Perhaps the
erosion of this ozone  during the polar night  is due to the same
interaction of the solar wind  with the Earth magnetic field that
causes the auroras.   It has been  observed that this combination
can  destroy  the ozone.   Solar  wind  is the  product  of solar
flares,  which are  becoming  more frequent  as  sunspot activity
   Let us  not blindly  follow those  environmental activists who
cry, ``The sky is falling,'' but  let's continue to study the sky
until  we know  enough  to make  a  sound decision  regarding the
phasing  out of  our best  refrigerants.  Remember,  before CFCs,
toxic  ammonia  and   sulfur  dioxide  were   used  in  our  home


      [The following is not part of the original article.]

1. Edward Edelson, ``The Man Who Knew Too Much'', Popular
     Science, Vol. 234,  No. 1  (January  1989), pp.  60-65, 102.
     (Contains an interesting profile  of F. Sherwood Rowland but
     also assumes he is correct.)

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