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Ozone Depletion and the Environment

Ozone Depletion and the Environment There is overwhelming scientific evidence that man-made chemicals are destroying the ozone layer — Nobel prizes have already been awarded for the research. Rush Limbaugh argues that humans are safe, because volcanic chlorine has been working on the ozone layer longer than man-made chlorine, and yet we’re still here. But this argument is false. Volcanic chlorine is water soluble, and rained harmlessly out of the atmosphere. Human CFCs are insoluble, and can therefore rise to the ozone layer where they can do their damage. Do man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroy the ozone layer? There are no longer any skeptics left at NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or the World Meteorological Organization. In fact, the three scientists who first sounded the alarm in the early 80s — F. Sherwood Rowland, Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina — received the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work. In 1991, NASA launched the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) in an attempt to determine once and for all if humans were responsible for causing this serious damage to the atmosphere. The data relayed back to NASA clinched the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. “There is a very clear link between man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and destruction of the ozone layer,” says Dr. Aidan Roche, the Lockheed scientist whose team analyzed the satellite data for years. (1) In one paragraph, the process works this way. The ozone layer is a thin, protective layer of the stratosphere, which rises 12 to 15 miles high. It shields the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which are deadly to most life forms. Unfortun… … middle of paper … … 23, 1993, Press Release, Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratories. 2. Ibid. See also description in Lester R. Brown et al. (eds.) Vital Signs 1994 (New York: W.W. Norton

Our Environment is Doomed

Some environmentalist doomsday scenarios have already saved our lives — for example, the alarm sounded about the ozone layer. Environmental science is like any other branch of science; it is a human activity that finds consensus on powerfully-supported theories, and disagreement on weakly-supported ones. That some conservatives would take only the disagreements that later proved wrong, compile them into a list and provide this as “proof” that environmentalists are conducting “junk science” is highly disingenuous.

It’s hardly true that environmentalist doomsday scenarios have always been proven wrong. A major one they got right was the destruction of the ozone layer — without which the sun’s deadly ultraviolet rays would have killed most if not all life on the planet. Thanks to quick and top-level scientific research, the alarm was sounded and all the nations of the world agreed to ban the chemicals responsible. F. Sherwood Rowland, Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina deserve far more than their Nobel prizes.

However, science is a human activity, and mistakes are often made. This is why scientific consensus is so important. When the arguments of any given theory are so strong and compelling that they sway a majority of scientists, the chances for human error are greatly diminished. Not eliminated, mind you — just greatly diminished.

The following is a list of well-supported theories that enjoy broad scientific consensus:

* Man-made chemicals are destroying the ozone layer. (1)

* Man-made chemicals are causing global warming. (2)

* Most agriculture, fish and water resources have either reached their limit or are declining, despite a growing population. (3)

* Death and cancer rates are higher around toxic waste sites, the chemical industry and the nuclear industry. (4)

* The extinction rate is climbing. (5)

* The world’s rain forests are declining. (6)

* The world’s coral reefs are declining. (7)

* More insects and bacteria are becoming immune to the pesticides and vaccinations used against them. (8)

Still, it’s possible to find scientists who hold beliefs outside the consensus, including cranks on the margins who espouse bizarre and crazy theories. They might be right — but if so, then the evidence that they find so compelling should be compelling to other scientists as well, and eventually this initially odd theory will itself become mainstream science. More often than not, however, these strange theories languish on the margins, for want of compelling evidence.

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