Friday, August 25, 2006

Ozone-hole repair: A case of “Oops, sorry!”?

My local Victoria, TX newspaper chose to publish today (on the front page of the 4th section, “Technology”) an A.P. article under the headline I used for my post title.

I searched for a link to the article. And searched. I finally found it on the Miami Herald website. Turns out it was released four days ago, on the 21st.

Here’s the story.

So why am I making such a big deal of such a minor story? I guess it’s because it tickled one of my “hot buttons.”

I’ve ranted before in this space about what I consider to be “sensationalism” in the disaster-science arena. I believe the reports of overpopulation scenarios are overblown. The terrors of global warming are overheated. The threat of widespread cancer due to a hole in the ozone layer is over the top.

Okay, I’ll stop all the cheap shots and cheesy adjectives.

I’m NOT saying that there are NO environmental dangers. I’m just saying that I think both real and pseudo-scientists tend to run their high-powered computer models based on lots of assumptions and estimates, tell us how horribly bad our future is going to be, and then tell us what the solutions are without fully considering their “probability of error” AND the law of unintended consequences to their ill advised answers to the problem. (Wow. Big, cumbersome sentence there.)

If you don’t want to read the article, it says essentially that in 1989 a bunch of countries were so afraid of the ozone layer hole that they signed the Montreal Protocol. That’s the one that banned CFCs in refrigerants and spray can propellants. No more Freon. Okay, we adapted.

But what happened? People and companies, naturally, chose the lowest-cost alternative to CFCs. These chemicals may help the ozone layer, but guess what? Here’s a quote:

“In fact, the volume of greenhouse gasses created as a result of the Montreal agreement’s phase-out of CFCs is two to three times the amount of global-warming carbon dioxide the Kyoto agreement is supposed to eliminate.”

WE’RE CAUSING EVEN MORE GLOBAL WARMING!! Now everyone’s scrambling to perform damage control. Is the cure worse than the disease?

The scientists are trying to come up with a DIFFERENT alternative to CFCs, but they ask:

“Who’s going to ensure that the replacements (for the replacements) are not going to cause global warming,” said Alexander von Bismarck, campaigns director for the Environmental Investigation Agency. “It’s shocking that so far nobody’s taking responsibility.”

Ha! Shocking to YOU maybe. In this country, NOT taking responsibility is part of our culture.

But that’s a different rant.


kenju said...

You're right, but I don't know what the answer to it would be. The "cure" is often worse than the problem. (Just look at Vioxx)

Duke_of_Earle said...

Right you are, kenju. But even better is the quote you put up on your post today, attributed to Milton Friedman, "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." Does that perfectly fit my rant, or what!!


Zinnia said...

Honestly, I tend to agree with you, John.