Climate Change And The Ozone Hole
The subject of climate change and global warming has been firmly on the political agenda for many years now. The central idea behind global warming is that the average temperature of the planet (notably in the world ocean) is rising and that the rise is attributable to the activities of mankind. Principal amongst these activities is the burning of fossil fuels (mostly for electrical energy production) which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other so-called “Greenhouse" gases are believed to reduce the amount of heat being radiated back from Earth and out into space, triggering a rise of the planet’s temperature.
Probably, one of the seminal events in the global warming debate was the linking of the enlargement of the “ozone hole" over Antarctica with the usage of aerosol products containing chlorinated fluorocarbons (CFCs). The “hole" was discovered as recently as 1985 by scientists working for the British Antarctic survey. The theory was that CFC usage (and other chemicals) was accelerating the destruction of the ozone layer in the atmosphere and worsening the extent of the seasonal hole in the ozone layers that appeared over the Polar Regions. The significance of this is that atmospheric ozone filters out some harmful UV solar radiation and loss of the ozone shield could critically affect life on Earth.
In an effort to prevent further ozone loss, legislation was brought in by many countries to ban the use of CFCs in most applications. Astoundingly, the legislation was brought in (under the UN sponsored Montreal Protocol) in 1987; just two years after the discovery of the phenomenon. It is important to realize that the ozone hole is a natural phenomenon and that it is also influenced by natural factors (such as volcanic activity which emits ash high into the stratosphere).
CFCs are classified as Greenhouse gases and because of this, the ideas of the ozone hole and global warming have become linked in the mind of the public and the media. Antarctica is a landmass at the southern polar region which is covered by ice. As a consequence of this, if the temperature of the planet was to increase by a few degrees, it is possible that some of the polar icecap would melt. Since this ice mass is supported by land, the world ocean would rise, as the melt water flowed into the world ocean (and may also affect ocean salinity). The extent of such a rise would obviously depend on the increase in global temperature and figures vary according to which model is used. However, the effect could be devastating for low lying coastal communities which could find themselves submerged by the rising sea level.