Chlorofluorocarbons: The Ozone Killer

The World Reacts

Since the problem with the ozone layer was acknowledged, several meetings have taken place to address and solve the problem. The first meeting was the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985. This meeting started the analysis leading to the 1987 meeting in Montreal.

In September 1987, a meeting of many of the world's countries took place in Montreal. At the time of the meeting, theories pointed to both natural meteorological processes and man-made chemicals as the culprits in ozone depletion. After the meeting, the theory that man-made chemicals were causing the ozone hole was accepted.

There were several results from the Montreal meeting. The parties formed the Technical and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) and the Technical Options Committees (TOCS). These committees are staffed with industrial experts. Their task is to monitor the technological developments that take place, as well as to adjust the regulatory timetable as required. The most important outcome from the meeting was the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol set limits on the production and consumption of CFCs. The use of CFCs was to be set at 1986 levels by mid-1989. The production and consumption is to be reduced to 50% by 1999. The Montreal Protocol was signed by 25 countries in 1987, and has since been signed by a total of 162 (Dugard, 1997).

The next meeting took place in London in 1990. At this meeting hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) consumption limits were added to the Montreal protocol. The limit was based on the ozone depletion potential (ODP) of CFCs, based on 1989 values. The limit was set at 3.1% of the ODP in 1989. This became known as the "3.1% cap." The schedule for HCFC reduction called for a freeze at 100% of the cap beginning on January 1, 1996. HCFC phaseout is to start in 2004, with a limit of 0.5% of the cap in 2020. The total phaseout of HCFC use is to be complete by 2030 (Dugard, 1997).

The Montreal Protocol parties met next in Copenhagen in 1992. The date for the complete phaseout of CFCs was moved up to January 1, 1996. The delegates also recognized that HCFCs with one-tenth or less ODP of CFCs should be available after the CFC phaseout. These chemicals are to be used as transitional materials. In 1995 the parties met in Vienna and changed the 3.1% cap to 2.8% (Dugard, 1997).

The latest meeting was on the tenth anniversary of the Montreal protocol meeting. It was held in Montreal in September 1997. At this meeting the European Union proposed that the ban on HCFC production be moved up to 2010, as well as lowering the 2.8% cap to 2.0%. The delegates rejected this proposal, arguing that the changes would result in uncertainty in the cooling industries, and could ultimately result in increased CFC use in the future (ASHRAE Journal 39(11), 1997).

Results to Date

The Montreal protocol is considered an overall success. It was economically successful because it was affordable and the consumer did not realize a large price increase due to the restrictions. The Protocol is a technological success because it has made engineers thoroughly redesign their systems. This redesign has made the new systems more efficient, more reliable, and a better value for the customer. It has also increased the average efficiency for chillers by 40% from 1976 to 1996 (Anderson and Morehouse, 1997).

There are also successes concerning the schedule for phasing out CFCs. The cooling industry was able to phase out CFCs in 1993 instead of 1996 as required by the Montreal Protocol. Also, the import and production of CFCs ended on schedule in 1996. While there have been successes, there are also some failures. It has been projected that the United States will be 12% above the allowed levels by the year 2000 (Cox and Miro, 1997). The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) has estimated that 53% of American CFC-based chillers will still be in use on January 1, 2000. This is four years after the ban on CFC production will be complete
(ASHRAE Journal 39(11), 1997).

The best result of the Montreal Protocol is that the ozone layer is being protected. The bans on CFC and HCFC use has caused the stratospheric ozone depletion problem to be less of a concern, and the amount of chlorine and bromine in the atmosphere is expected to start to decline soon (Cox and Miro, 1997). The ozone layer is now expected to return to its normal state after all the CFCs have disappeared, but this will take one or two centuries (Rowland, 1997).

Works Cited

Anderson, S. O. & Morehouse, E. T. (1997) The ozone challenge: Industry and government learned to work together to protect environment. ASHRAE Journal. 39(9), 33-36.

ASHRAE Journal. (1997) No changes for Protocol timetable. 39(11), 11.

Cox, J. E. & Miro, C. R. (1997) 'Update' focuses on environment. ASHRAE Journal. 39(9), 20.

Dugard, P. H. (1997) The Montreal Protocol: An exercise in international environmental diplomacy. ASHRAE Journal. 39(9), 38-41.

Rowland, F. S. (1997) Stratospheric ozone depletion: Identifying the problem. ASHRAE
Journal. 39(9), 29-31.

Somerville, C. J. (1996) . The forgiving air: Understanding environmental change. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Back to the First Part of the Report

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers
ASHRAE has been reporting on the ozone depletion problem for some time now. There are several articles from the ASHRAE Journal in this site. For further information, search the Journal Online portion of the site.

Written March 11, 1998

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