On this day in 1987, the Montreal Protocol was agreed to by the nations of the world. This was the treaty that was designed to reverse the antarctic ozone hole. In particular, it banned the two most potent ozone killers: F-11 and F-12. Hooray! We saved the ozone layer!
So a normal person would think that we could do the same thing about global warming. Indeed, the ozone hole disproves one of the most common complaints that I hear from global warming deniers: humans couldn’t have a global impact on the environment. It also disproves the Christian claim that God would never allow us to screw up the planet. But most people have forgotten all about the ozone layer, even though, as I recall, F-11 and F-12 both have something like a 100 year lifetime in the atmosphere.
But there was a reason that the world could ban these chemicals: they were out of patent or soon would be. DuPont had patents on the newer HFCs and HCFCs. Admittedly, they weren’t nearly as bad for the environment. But the point is that CFCs were easy to ban because big business wasn’t making money on them. In fact, the Montreal Protocol was doubtless a moneymaker for DuPont and other chemical companies.
With global warming, there is nothing but downside for big business. And so, at least in the United States, we have to talk about this for the next century or two — when Exxon is diversified and has patents that stop people from getting energy free from the sun. If I sound bitter, you’ve got it right. There is no democracy here. There is no compromise. Unless we can make doing something to make fighting global warming a moneymaker for the hydrocarbon industry, nothing will be done.
But if we could do that today, tomorrow Fox News and Rush Limbaugh would be ranting about the importance of doing something about the warming planet. Every time I hear “Montreal Protocol,” I am reminded of just how screwed up the human race is. All hope is lost. It is just a matter of time.