Correct Lessons from Shrinking Ozone Hole

Published October 15, 2002

I agree with the title of your editorial (“The sky is not falling” Oct 12, 2002) but wish to correct some of the scientific information:

  • The Antarctic Ozone Hole (AOH) was never “theorized” but discovered in 1985 and explained only much later;
  • By 1987, when the Montreal Protocol (to phase out CFCs) was concluded, the published data showed no increase in stratospheric chlorine, an ozone-destroying chemical, and therefore no evidence for a human influence. In fact, the chief US negotiator Richard Benedick bragged that he was able to pull off the Montreal accord without any backing from science. I quote from his book Ozone Diplomacy: ” Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the treaty was…………[that it] rested on scientific theories rather than on firm data;”
  • According to the official UN report of 2002, stratospheric chlorine is still rising. No matter: The size of the AOH has been controlled by changing weather patterns rather than by chlorine levels;
  • In spite of theoretical predictions, there has been no direct observational evidence for a steady increase of ultraviolet radiation at the Earth’s surface. Therefore all imagined impacts cited in the editorial — skin cancers, cataracts, etc. — are based on speculation.
  • Finally, the economic impact on GDP of phasing out CFCs (“freons”) has indeed been minor. But that’s not true for fossil fuels, and it is misleading to use such an analogy.

(The impact has been great for those motorists forced to replace their car air- conditioning system because of a small leak. I should know; it cost me nearly $1000.)

This letter was sent to the Chicago Tribune by S. Fred Singer . Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, and scientific adviser to the Heartland Institute, Chicago.