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ecomii guides guide to global warming
In partnership with:  Union of Concerned Scientists

Is global warming connected to the hole in the ozone layer?

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Remember when everyone threw out their aerosol spray cans and Styrofoam cups? We listened when scientists told us that the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in those products were eating away at the Earth’s ozone layer, our only protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. It turns out that the hole in the ozone is related to global warming, but is itself a very different and distinct threat.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“Global warming and ozone depletion are two separate but related threats. Global warming and the greenhouse effect refer to the warming of the lower part of the atmosphere (also known as the troposphere) due to increasing concentrations of heat-trapping gases. By contrast, the ozone hole refers to the loss of ozone in the upper part of the atmosphere, called the stratosphere. This is of serious concern because stratospheric ozone blocks incoming ultraviolet radiation from the sun, some of which is harmful to plants, animals, and humans.

The two problems are related in a number of ways, including:

  • Some human-made gases, like chlorofluorocarbons, trap heat and destroy the ozone layer. Currently, these gases are responsible for less than 10 percent of total atmospheric warming, far less than the contribution from the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

  • The ozone layer traps heat, so if it gets destroyed, the upper atmosphere actually cools, thereby offsetting part of the warming effect of other heat-trapping gases. But that's no reason to rejoice: the cooling of the upper layers of the atmosphere can produce changes in the climate that affect weather patterns in the higher latitudes.

  • Trapping heat in the lower part of the atmosphere allows less heat to escape into space and leads to cooling of the upper part of the atmosphere. The colder it gets, the greater the destruction of the protective ozone layer.

Reducing ozone-depleting gases is crucial to preventing further destruction of the ozone layer, but eliminating these gases alone will not solve the global warming problem. On the other hand, efforts to reduce all types of emission to limit global warming will also be good for the recovery of the ozone layer.”1

1. Union of Concerned Scientists (8 March 2007). [online] Excerpted from: [15 November 2007]
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