Chris Morrison from the DAILY SCEPTIC wrote: The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer high above Antarctica in the 1980s turned into one of the first great climate and environmental scares. Blame was placed on the effect of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) which were used extensively at the time in refrigerators and aerosols, and their use was banned by the Montreal Protocol from 1989. Climate activists learnt the lesson from this example and have been whipping up global fear ever since. Over the years, constant war has been waged on numerous industrial and agricultural products and processes with calls to ban some of the food we eat and restrict our movements. But at least we saved the ozone layer. Actually, we didn’t. Since 2002 there has been a significant ozone reduction of up to a 26% loss in the core of the ozone hole.A recently published science paper by three New Zealand-based physicists notes that the three years 2020-22 have witnessed the re-emergence of large, long-lived holes over Antarctica. The scientists note that in the eight years to 2022, five of the years showed similarly large temporary holes occurring in the spring months. In 2023, the European Space Agency said the hole over Antarctica was one of the biggest ever recorded, measuring 26 million sq kms. This was noted to be roughly three times the size of Brazil. All this is despite the fact that CFCs have been slowly declining in the atmosphere for nearly 30 years.

It is beyond the scope of this article to investigate whether the banning of CFCs has had any positive effect on ozone, although the data we now have might suggest an over-egging of the climate pudding. What we do know is that the CFC ban was totemic for climate activists. It gave a green light for launching multiple scare campaigns. The claimed global success in stopping CFC emissions and repairing the ozone hole was the template for promoting all the changes that will be required to complete the Net Zero collectivist project. Speaking in 2020, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the ozone treaties were “inspiring examples” of political will. “Let us take encouragement from how we have worked together to preserve the ozone layer and apply the same will to healing the planet and forging a brighter and more equitable future for all humanity,” he added.

Needless to say, the continued presence of the ozone hole, in reality a thinning of the layer,  is not much discussed these days in the mainstream media. In fact the lessons from the ozone scare were well learnt in these quarters as well, and an almost daily diet of climate catastrophisation is fed to readers. So perish the thought that banning CFCs didn’t actually work – perish the thought that the same outcome might await impoverished global populations once industrialisation is dismantled by banning all hydrocarbons.

It would seem that more valuable lessons can be learnt about the effect of natural variation. The discovery of ozone layer thinning in the late 1970s was a dramatic event, and the ‘hole’ was almost immediately attributed to the use of CFCs. Little work has been done to discover whether this was a one-off problem specifically caused by the effect of CFCs, or if ozone thinning is a largely natural and regular event. Using data, admittedly sparse, from a number of weather sources, the independent researcher Michael Jonas has plotted the following graph.

According to Jonas, the South Pole data for the peak time around October shows there were ozone holes before 1979. The figures on the left are Dobson units, used to measure ozone concentrations. The average around the planet is about 300 Dobsons, while anything less than 220 is considered a hole. The thinning episodes before 1979 may have been less pronounced than in recent years, concludes Jonas, but they occurred in 1964, 1966, 1969, 1974 and 1977.

It is reasonable speculation to suggest that ozone thinning has long been a feature in this part of the southern hemisphere. The thinning is a temporary event in the Antarctic spring, and normal levels resume by December. The New Zealand scientists identify numerous natural forces that seem to affect ozone depletion. Springtime temperatures and wind patterns are said to “greatly impact” ozone hole development, along with aerosol loading from wildfires and volcanic eruptions as well as changes in the solar cycle. Dynamic changes from the higher reaches of the atmosphere within the polar vortex are also noted.

CFCs can remain in the atmosphere for a number of years, but steadily reducing levels seem to have had little or no effect on the recent regular appearance around October of massive holes, some of the largest in almost 50 years of recording. Scientists have been pushing back the ‘recovery’ of the hole until 2065, but the New Zealand researchers suggest that in the light of their work there may be further delays.

In other words, it is anyone’s guess.

Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.

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