The Ozone Depletion Problem (An Example of Harm Commitment) - MARC Report Number 1

United Nations Environment Programme ; International Council of Scientific Unions (1976)

The problem of ozone depletion is so interdisciplinary and complex that it is difficult for the non-expert to evaluate its urgency and severity. As a result, this potential threat cannot readily be compared with the myriad of others without committing scarce resources to comprehensive monitoring and assessment programmes. This Report attempts, in non-technical language, to provide a summary of current predictions of ozone depletion and its possible effects and, as an annex, an economic analysis of the consequences of restrictions of one set of the chemicals involved, the chlorofluorocarbons. The Report shows how the problem of ozone depletion fits the dose and harm commitment concepts. When given quantities of certain chemicals enter the environment, theory predicts that an extra dose of ultraviolet radiation from the sun and additional skin cancers will almost inevitably follow even if delayed by years. Finally, the Report concludes with suggestions for the actions required to resolve many of the uncertainties still plaguing the theoretical predictions of ozone depletion and its effects. It also indicates the steps needed to evaluate the economic consequences of restrictions of chlorofluorocarbon releases to the atmosphere.

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