Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Re-cycling a Strategy

Perhaps they deserve credit for tenacity, even though their premise is doubtful and their tactics are loathsome. It appears that it will take the sight of a mile-high glacier sliding down the Hudson River and wiping out Yonkers before the climate alarmists will turn their disaster scenario in a different direction. This from the NYT:

"The treaty, the Montreal Protocol, was adopted in 1987 for a completely different purpose, to eliminate aerosols and other chemicals that were blowing a hole in the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

But as the signers of the protocol convened the 22nd annual meeting in Bangkok on Monday, negotiators are considering a proposed expansion in the ozone treaty to phase out the production and use of the industrial chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs The chemicals have thousands of times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas.

HFCs are used as refrigerants in air-conditioners and cooling systems. They are manufactured mostly in China and India, but appliances containing the substance are in use in every corner of the world. HFCs replaced even more dangerous ozone-depleting chemicals known as HCFCs, themselves a substitute for the chlorofluorocarbons that were the first big target of the Montreal process.

“Eliminating HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the single biggest chunk of climate protection we can get in the next few years,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a nongovernment organization based in Washington. He noted that the ozone protection effort had begun under former President Ronald Reagan and continues to enjoy bipartisan support.

The United States has thrown its support behind the proposal and negotiators said there was a strong current of support for the move at the meeting on Monday. All the signatories to the Montreal Protocol would have to agree to the expansion, but no further approval from Congress would be needed. So far, there has been no Congressional or industry opposition to the idea.

But the plan is not expected to be adopted this year. Large developing countries, including China, India and Brazil, object that the timetable is too rapid and that payments for eliminating the refrigerant are not high enough.

One advantage to using the Montreal protocol as a vehicle, supporters say, is that negotiations over the treaty have been utterly unlike the contentious United Nations climate talks that foundered in Copenhagen last year. Negotiators say that without legislative action on curbing greenhouse gases by the United States, little progress will be made when countries gather in CancĂșn, Mexico, late this month for another round of climate talks.

In a post-election news conference, President Obama noted that it was doubtful that Congress would do anything to address global warming “this year or next year or the year after.”

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Montreal treaty has been signed by all nations. They conduct their business with little drama and with broad scientific and technical input from governments and industry. The financing mechanisms, while occasionally contentious, are generally quickly resolved and seen as equitable.

The ozone treaty was unanimously ratified in 1988 by the United States Senate, which a decade later unanimously voted against adopting the Kyoto Protocol to address climate change. Montreal’s pollution reduction targets are mandatory, universally accepted and readily measurable. None of that is true of the climate process.

The Montreal Protocol has phased out nearly 97 percent of 100 ozone-depleting chemicals, some of which are also potent climate-altering gases. The net effect has been the elimination of the equivalent of more than 200 billion metric tons of global-warming gases, five years’ worth of total global emissions, far more than has been accomplished by the Kyoto process.

It has been, according to the former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, “perhaps the most successful international agreement to date.”

The proposal to eliminate HFCs was advanced several years ago by the tiny island nation of Micronesia, one of the places on Earth most vulnerable to sea-level rise and other global warming effects.

The United States quickly signed on. Along with Mexico and Canada, the Obama administration has proposed a rapid series of steps to reduce HFC production, with rich countries meeting a faster timetable than developing nations and helping to pay the poorer countries to find substitutes. But the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that adopting the HFC proposal could eliminate the equivalent of 88 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, and slow global warming by a decade.

Daniel A. Reifsnyder, the deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and the nation’s chief Montreal Protocol negotiator, said that it might take several years to persuade the ozone treaty countries to back the plan.

In addition to pace and cost issues, some countries say that HFCs have little impact on the ozone layer and thus should be handled under the United Nations climate change talks. Mr. Reifsnyder dismissed that as a legalistic argument and said that the ozone treaty could and should be used to achieve broader environmental objectives.

“What we’ve found is that the Montreal Protocol has been a very effective instrument for addressing global environmental problems,” Mr. Reifsnyder said in an interview. “It was created to deal with the ozone layer, but it also has tremendous ability to solve the climate problem if people are willing to use it that way.”

Mario Molina, the Mexican scientist who shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his groundbreaking work in identifying the role of chlorofluorocarbon gases in the breach of the stratospheric ozone layer, said that it might take two or three years for other countries to see the virtues of the HFC reduction.

“My hope is that everybody will agree with this proposal from the United States and Mexico and a few other countries because the Montreal Protocol has been so successful at controlling these industrial chemicals,” he said in an interview from his institute in Mexico City.

Dr. Molina said that extending the protocol to include HFCs could reduce the threat of climate change by several times what the Kyoto Protocol proposes. He noted that the climate treaty had fallen far short of its goals, and that there was no agreement on what should replace it when its major provisions expired in 2012.

“We understand it’s a stretch to use an international agreement designed for another purpose,” he said. “But dealing with these chemicals and using this treaty to protect the planet makes a lot of sense.”

In 1973 Sherwood Rowland, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, and a graduate student there, Mario Molina, were studying atmospheric aerosols. At that time geophysical research seemed to indicate that there were annual fluctuations in the stratospheric ozone content over the poles, especially over the Antarctic. The media became obsessed with the possible ramifications of this, a supposed increase in ultra-violet radiation reaching the earth's surface that would cause increases in skin cancer and blindness in humans and animals. Television news stories gave ultimately fictional accounts of blind sheep wandering around in Patagonia and Chilean children unable to attend school due to poisonous sunlight. At just this moment, Molina ran a computer simulation of what would occur if molecules of popular and effective refrigerants, HCFCs, compounds of chlorine, were to enter the atmosphere, as they invariably would, due to leaks in refrigeration equipment. Aside from the fact that the chloroflourocarbon molecules are much heavier than air, Molina's experiment indicated that over time they would migrate to the highest reaches of the atmosphere where ultraviolet rays would break these incredibly stable molecules down, releasing chlorine atoms that would unite with the O1 ozone atoms and allow ultra-violet rays to penetrate to the earth. There was never any physical evidence that this process was actually taking place and none has been found to this day.
Nevertheless, portions of the scientific community and the media embraced the theory. Much like climate change today, opinions were polarized. However, the businesses most affected by proposed bans on HCFCs, the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, chemicals, building materials and aerosol cans didn't put up much of a fight. They saw opportunities to increase profits with newer, more expensive products and more expensive service techniques and were happy to consign R-12, R-502, and, eventually R-22, to the scrap heap. The Montreal Protocol forbids the use of these products in industrialized nations but they are still legal in the developing world. Keep in mind that all the HCFCs ever produced, and being produced to this day, will eventually end up in the atmosphere. While a certain proportion of them are recycled for further use, even that quantity will eventually escape. These compounds are not broken down into some other substance.
One would expect, if the Rowland-Molina theory had any validity, that after the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, there would be a continuing fall in polar ozone levels for an extended period of time followed by a slow rise. This has not happened. And, as soon as the signatures on the paperwork had been signed, the media and parts of the scientific community moved on to something else, climate change. We haven't heard about the ozone hole in years. Researchers with an ideological and financial interest in climate change hoped that a direct assault on what remains of free market civilization would find success with visions of world-wide calamity. Not enough people fell for it. The antidote was just too extreme. The Montreal Protocol, the most expensive and needless attempt to shape human life on a world-wide basis ever attempted, had succeeded. But Kyoto had not. Thus they will attempt to change our lives on the basis of an international treaty restricting refrigerants.

Update: They haven't given up at all. Now it's the whales that are in trouble.

Sunburnt whales: Rising UV radiation could be damaging whales' skin

November 10th, 2010 in Biology / Plants & Animals
A  blue whale swimming in the deep waters off the southern Sri Lankan town  of Mirissa


A blue whale swimming in the deep waters off the southern Sri Lankan town of Mirissa. A closely-studied community of whales, including the threatened blue whale, showed worrying signs of sunburn, possibly because of ozone depletion in the atmosphere, biologists reported on Wednesday.

Whales exhibit skin damage consistent with acute sunburn in humans, and it seems to be getting worse over time, reveals research published this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Queen Mary, University of London and CICIMAR, studied blue , fin whales and in the Gulf of California to determine the effect of rising levels of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on their health.

For a number of years scientists have observed blisters on the skin of whales. Now, using high-quality photos to give accurate counts of the blisters and analysing areas of damage in skin samples, this research has found that the three species of whale exhibit that is commonly associated with acute sunburn in humans.

Notably, the scientists also found that signs of sun damage were more severe in the paler-skinned blue whales, compared with the darker-skinned fin whales, and that in blue whales the symptoms of sunburn seem to be getting worse during the three years the study took place.

The UV index for the Gulf of California fluctuates between high and extremely high throughout the year. Lead author, Laura Martinez–Levasseur from ZSL and Queen Mary, says, "Whales need to come to the surface to breathe air, to socialise and to feed their young, meaning that they are frequently exposed to the full force of the sun.

"The increase in skin damage seen in is a matter of concern, but at this stage it is not clear what is causing this increase. A likely candidate is rising UVR as a result of either ozone depletion, or a change in the level of cloud cover."

Co-author Professor Edel O'Toole, from Queen Mary, says, "As we would expect to see in humans, the whale species that spent more 'time in the sun' suffered greater sun damage. We predict that whales will experience more severe sun damage if continues to increase."

The next phase of the research will look at the expression of genes involved in the production of skin pigmentation and DNA damage repair and try to gain a greater understanding of the consequences of sun damage in whales.

Lead author Dr Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse, from ZSL says, "We have shown that exposure to strong sun is damaging to whales' skin. We now need to understand the knock-on effects and whether whales are able to respond quickly to increasing radiation by enhancing their natural sun-protection mechanisms."

More information: The paper 'Acute sun damage and photoprotective responses in whales' ( DOI:10.1098/rspb.20101903 ) will be published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Wednesday 10 November.

Provided by Zoological Society of London

No comments: