We Homo sapiens got lucky. Very lucky. Back in the 1920s, when looking for a “safe” gas to use in refrigerators, chlorine was the element of choice in a new family of manmade chemical compounds – chlorofluorocarbons. In the 1970s, Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland discovered that while it was safe in our fridges, it was destroying the ozone layer, which is essential to protect all life on land.
Luck struck twice. Nasa scientists measuring ozone above Antarctica in the 1980s never saw the ozone hole in their data. Their computers were programmed to ignore any figures deemed “impossible”. Luckily, the British Antarctic Survey had no such technology and sounded the alarm. In 1987, nations signed the Montreal Protocol outlawing CFCs.
But here luck comes in threes. Bromine is as good as chlorine for fridges and air conditioners, but about 40 times more corrosive to ozone. And by mere chance, the industry chose chlorine as the global standard. If this had not happened, the ozone layer could have been ripped apart before we even knew it. In 1995, Crutzen, Molina and Rowland were awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry, obviously.
Please read the rest on The Guardian. It’s important.