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Global agreements, regulations and social considerations

In 1973, two scientists from the University of California at Irvine, Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland, first discovered that man-made substances called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could play a major role in the destruction of stratospheric ozone.Their findings were published in the journal Nature in June 1974.Since that time there has been much controversy surrounding the subject of ozone depletion.Researchers have struggled to understand the nature and severity of the problem through numerous scientific studies.Nations from all over the world have come together and agreed to establish international industrial regulations in hope of protecting the ozone layer.The following timeline is a combination of material quoted from Sharon Roan's book entitled "Ozone Crisis; The 15 Year Evolution of a Sudden Global Emergency", and up-to-date information from current research scientists. It demonstrates the course of events that has taken place since the first ozone destroying pollutants were identified more than 20 years ago.

Because of uncertainty about how global environmental systems work, and because the people affected will probably live in circumstances very much different from those of today and may have different values, it is difficult to predict how present-day actions will affect future generations.To project or forecast the human consequences of global change at some point in the relatively distant future, one would need to know at least the following:

the future state of the natural environment
the future of social and economic organization
the values held by the members of future social groups
the proximate effects of global change on those values
the responses that humans will have made in anticipation of global change or in response to ongoing global change

International Agreements

Even the value systems, and technological advancements, of present daynations are extremely different.Nonetheless, efforts to predict and protect are underway.Despite their differences, the international community made significant progress in addressing ozone depletion as a serious global environmental problem.Through the 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the 1987 Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, and the 1990 London Amendments to the protocol, members from nations around the world have committed to phasing out the production and consumption of CFCs, and a number of related chemicals, by the year 2000.

Ozone depletion control started in the early 1970Õs, when the United States, along with a handful of other Western countries, expressed concern over emissions from supersonic transport (SST) aircraft and aerosol spray cans.Environmental groups organized opposition to the development of the SST and to the extensive use of aerosols.Public response led to a sharp drop in the sales of aerosol products.The U.S. Congress, prodded by government studies supporting the CFC ozone depletion theory and its links to skin cancer, approved the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate CFCs.In 1978, the United States became the first country to ban the nonessential use of CFCs in aerosols.However, the EPA ruled that other uses of CFCs, such as refrigeration, were essential and lacked available substitutes.

Ozone depletion emerged as a major international issue in the 1980s. This occurred primarily as a result of initiatives by the United Nations Environmental Programme and actions of the international scientific and environmental communities.A United Nations Environment Program to protect the ozone layer was signed in Vienna in 1985, and a protocol outlining proposed protective actions followed.The Vienna convention of 1985 embodied an international environmental consensus that ozone depletion was a serious environmental problem.However, there was no consensus on the specific steps that each nation should take.The Montreal Protocol, signed in September 1987,stated that there would be a 50 % cut back in CFC production by 2000.The United States ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1988.The 1990 London Amendments to the protocol state that production of CFCs, CCl4, and halons will be completely halted by the year 2000.The phaseout schedule for other compounds was accelerated by 4 years by the 1992 Copenhagan agreement.

All human activity potentially contributes directly or indirectly to global change.Earth's atmosphere consists of a delicate balance of gases essential to life.Throughout the history of the planet, the atmospheric gases have been influenced by Earth processes and by the living organisms from both the oceans and land, and natural changes have occurred in the type of gases and their concentrations. Anthropogenic activities are now believed to be causing rapid changes in atmospheric composition on an accelerated time scale. Due to extended human life expectancies and greater population densities, the influence of humans will continue to grow.

Scientists are now confident that stratospheric ozone is being depleted worldwide.However, how much of the loss is the result of human activity, and how much is the result of fluctuations in natural cycles, still need to be determined.To understand global atmospheric changes, we need to understand the composition and chemistry of Earth's atmosphere and how they are affected by human activity.To create accurate models, scientists must account for all of the factors affecting ozone creation and destruction, and conduct simultaneous, global studies over the course of many years.

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Last updated: Apr 06, 2016 05:58 PM ET