The Montreal Protocol’s Catch 22

The Air Up Their : By John Demeter

That’s Some Catch that Catch 22

Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all his close calls he’s had.
Yossarian: Why can’t you ground him?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: I can, but first he has to ask me.
Yossarian: That’s all he’s gotta do to be grounded?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: That’s all.
Yossarian: Then you can ground him?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: No. Then I cannot ground him.
Yossarian: Aah!
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: There’s a CATCH?
Yossarian: A catch?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Sure. Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat isn’t really crazy, so I can’t ground him.
Yossarian: Ok, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: You got it, that’s Catch-22.
Yossarian: Whoo… That’s some catch, that Catch-22.
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: It’s the best there is.

That hilarious exchange from the 1970 movie (based on the novel by Joseph Heller) CATCH 22 staring Alan Arkin playing the role of WWII bombardier Captain John Yossarian captures the essence of what we see going on in the “officialdom” communities surrounding much of the ozone depletion world today.  Over the last five years we witnessed the European Union ban the use of all halon (except for critical end users – a list that gets whittled away at each year), a similar action taken by the Canadian government, restricted use and eventual banning of halons by the international maritime community, a similar banning by the U.S. Coast Guard and the banning by a number of private oversight groups like SFI (an organization that sanctions a number of different automobile racing events in the U.S.  All in the name of protecting the environment.

We wonder.

Lost in the shuffle of studies, reports, requests, meeting, analysis, more studies, more meetings – and of course, related travel to far off places – lost is almost any mention of what is to happen to the 55,000 metric tons of halon 1301 and 90,000 metric tons of halon 1211 left in the world today.  In fact, at the recently concluded 20th Anniversary Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, there was nary a mention of just what to do with the halon that remains sitting in old, rusted, high pressure cylinders all over the world. (We are reminded of the “see no, hear no” well you get it.)  

So let’s listen in on a current day discussion between Yossarian and Daneeka,


Yossarian:    We want to protect the environment. Let’s just stop using halon 1211 and 1301. We’ll call them “use controls”.  Is that crazy?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Not at all. They’re bad for the environment.

lYossarian: So stopping their use will save the environment, right?  
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Well, not really. We’ll still have tens of thousands of tons spread all over the world that will eventually leak into the atmosphere.
Yossarian:  Huh? Now that’s crazy!! What can we do about it?  
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Well, we could gather them up and destroy them, but the logistics would be a nightmare and besides no one has the money? Or we could wait for the price of halons on the Chicago Climate Exchange to increase beyond  the costs of transportation AND destruction. That is certain to happen as soon as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause get hell to freeze over. I hear they’ve revised their timetable several times. 
Yossarian:  Humm. Several times huh? That’s not good.
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: No it’s not.  You see by imposing use bans on halon we cause more of it to be released into the atmosphere
Yossarian: Aah! That’s the catch huh?
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Yup. That’s the catch.  
Yossarian: But if it’s a catch, we have to give it a name that people will remember. You know, like the one we did back in 1970.  
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: Sure. I’m way ahead of you. I’m calling it the “feel good Catch”. We do all these things to make it appear that we are helping the environment, then nothing really happens but we sure do feel good about it.
Yossarian:  So let me see if I have this right? We ban the use of halons and are left with tens of millions of tons that will eventually leak into the atmosphere and cause the same damage we’re trying to prevent.
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: You got it, that’s Catch Feel Good.
Yossarian: Whoo… That’s some catch, that Catch Feel Good.
Dr. ‘Doc’ Daneeka: It’s the best there is.

There are really only two good alternatives to our current situation (55,000 metric tons of halon 1301 and 90,000 metric tons of halon 1211!! – yes we know we said that already but we’re trying to make a point) and that is to either keep on using them until they run out or find a way and the money to destroy them. We vote for the former. It’s the only way to maintain long term responsible management of a lot of stuff that is really bad for the environment.

Please comment with your opinions or contact us via e-mail:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: