The phasing out of ozone-eating CFC molecules is hailed as one of the world's greatest environmental success stories. But was it governments or technology that really saved the day? Two experts share their views.
Dig, if you will, this picture: alarmed scientists alert the world to the build-up of atmospheric gases that, left unchecked, will cause disastrous environmental consequences on a planetary scale.
Despite complicated politics and dizzying technical challenges, the world comes together and agrees to a set of firm but fair regulations phasing out the gases and demanding appropriate sacrifices of developed and developing countries alike. Disaster averted. Planet saved.
This was the story of the Montreal Protocol, the groundbreaking treaty that saved the ozone layer and millions of lives.
In a three-part schedule that called on developed nations to act first, countries phased out the production of cloroflourocarbons (CFCs), molecular byproducts of aerosol sprays that travelled skyward and ate ozone molecules. If the world continues to abide faithfully by the regulations, scientists believe the hole over the Antarctic could close by mid-century.
It was an unqualified victory for the environment and a proud moment for the international community. It’s only natural to look to Montreal for guidance as the world confronts the monumental task of combatting climate change.
The Montreal Protocol opened for signatures 25 years ago. In honor of this milestone, chinadialogue has invited two experts to share their perspectives on the treaty’s relevance for our current climate challenge.
University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr argues that viable, less-harmful alternatives already existed for CFCs – a technological boon that made regulation much easier to swallow than controls on greenhouse gas emissions ever will be.
In contrast, David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council believes that the success of Montreal proves that the world has all the tools it needs to fight climate change.