The widespread use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) throughout a fifty-year stretch in the middle of the 20th century was one of the biggest environmental mistakes ever. As we came to learn the hard way, CFCs wreak environmental havoc by weakening the ozone layer, and some can persist in the atmosphere for over a century, making their legacy a long-lived mistake too.
The Montreal Protocol of 1987 was instrumental in phasing out CFC use, and is considered one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements ever. The Protocol has phased out nearly 97% of 100 ozone-depleting chemicals, many of which contribute to global warming. The Protocol also prevented over 200 billion metric tonnes of global warming gases from entering the atmosphere – an astonishing five years’ worth of total global emissions. Nothing to sneeze at. The Montreal Protocol’s pollution reduction targets are mandatory, universally accepted and readily measurable.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) scientists recently confirmed that the Montreal Protocol was a highly-successful solution - the ozone layer has recovered from CFC-induced damage, and the Protocol “provided substantial co-benefits by reducing climate change.”
With energy legislation shelved in the U.S. and little hope for a global climate change agreement this year, some policy experts are arguing that, rather than reinventing the wheel, perhaps a solution is right in front of us.
Industrial and developing countries have joined forces to call for stringent limits on HCFC-22 , the world’s most popular refrigerant for air-conditioners, amid mounting evidence it depletes the ozone layer and contributes to global warming.