Save The Planet…Destroy the Ozone Layer!

The Air Up There :  by John Demeter

 Save The Planet…Destroy the Ozone Layer!!

No. Not really.  We don’t believe that the planet can be saved by destroying the ozone layer. (We’re not even sure the planet is in danger but that’s the subject of another column.) But like a good joke, the silly statement (Save the Planet. Destroy the Ozone Layer) does contain an element of truth.

Readers of this newsletter know that in addition to being an ozone depleting substance, halons (both 1211 and 1301 – but especially 1301) are potent global warming chemicals that some say will lead to irreversible climate change.  In fact, all ozone depleting substances have direct and immediate global warming effects. This is one of the reasons behind the effort by the Climate Action Reserve (CAR) to develop a protocol that would result in the issuing of valuable carbon offset credits in return for the destruction of ODS. You can read more about CAR here. You can read more about carbon offsets here.

So, here is the good news. We mean, here is the bad news! Sorry, we are a bit confused. So, to coin a phrase, we report and you decide. According to several studies, besides being a direct ozone depleting substance and a direct global warmer, halons are also indirect global coolers! Yes, you read that right. Halons, emitted into the atmosphere, have the long-term, indirect effect of actually contributing to global cooling. This cooling effect has been calculated by some to more than offset their global warming potential!

“How”?  We were afraid you were going to ask us that. We’ve read several of the studies (fresh, hot, black coffee is recommended). Simply put, ozone, the substance that protects us from the sun’s harmful rays, also acts as a global warming agent and therefore, anything that destroys ozone creates the indirect effect of cooling the globe. How they figure this out is slightly beyond our pay grade (and debated by other scientists) but for those readers who received a “C” average or higher in high school chemistry, click here for an abstract that goes into a bit more detail.  Others (including HTOC) while agreeing that halons are indirect global coolers, disagree that negative indirect warming (read “cooling”) should be considered a factor, given the relatively weak scientific basis of indirect warming compared to global warming science.     

So, what does all of this mean?  First, it means that there is conflicting science. No surprise here. Second, emitting halon is never a good idea unless it is to extinguish a fire, even if some think it may have long term cooling effect.  Halons are ozone depleters and direct global warming gases.  Their global warming potentials are derived from direct measurement of their atmospheric lifetime and capability to absorb infrared radiation.   In contrast, the indirect global warming potentials for halons are based on uncertain model estimates that do not account for complex interactions between ozone depletion and climate change.

It also means that CAR is unlikely to include Halons in its forthcoming Protocol on ODS destruction, including only refrigerants and foams since, they say, there is an unacceptable level of uncertainty about halons “warming” potential.   This is unfortunate.


If this column has been consistent about anything it is that:

  • There is allot of halon (1301 and 1211) in the World. HTOC as well as our everyday experience in this business tells us that  much more than will be consumed over the next 30 years (and it’s pretty bad stuff to boot)
  • There are only two ways to deal with this halon supply: one is to continue using it (commercial aviation, maritime, etc.)  and lengthening the amount of time before it is emitted.  The other is to destroy it!
  • Destruction will only happen is there is a market incentive to do so

 While the science behind halons and global warming may be debatable, one thing is not. With the constant drumbeat for companies to “get out of and rid of their halon” the likely decision by CAR not to include halon in its Carbon Credit Protocol, the HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS……. Just……. Keeps……. Getting ……Louder!!!


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