18 September 2012

Ozone - Let me Count the Cost Saved

Sunday, 16th September, was International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. I did my best to preserve it all day. Well, in all honesty as we all do every day without thinking about it.

So how does it come about that we preserve the ozone layer without thinking and how does it come about there is a day for it?

25 years ago, the Montreal Protocol was signed, and unlike many protocols since then, it has been successful and successful in a measurable way.
And success has been twofold.

Firstly, the ozone layer itself should have recovered from our wanton destruction by 2065 or shortly after. In human terms, this has saved millions of lives globally. But not everyone thinks in terms of human lives, or even globally.

In Canada, we are lucky enough, and caring enough, to have a nationally funded health care system. So it would be possible to put an actual dollar value on how much the nation's health care system has saved over 25 years, because of compliance with the Montreal Protocol.

Secondly, the chemicals which were banned in the protocol, because they destroy the ozone layer, are also greenhouse gases. So this has had a huge impact on climate change.

So my question is this....why can't we have a new protocol or treaty, that draws on the successes of Montreal, that protects peatlands?

Durwood Zaelke, who is president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, says that Montreal was successful because everyone was on board because they consider it fair.

“They consider it fair because it fully implements the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility,’ by providing that the developed countries that first used CFCs start their phase outs first, followed by a grace period of ten years, before the developing countries have to start.” said Zaelke.

“These boots on the ground have made a tremendous contribution to the treaty’s success,” he said. 

So why is there so much resistance to changes now? Why, 25 years on, when we are far more aware of impending environmental disaster and the extent of it, do countries lack the political will to pull together?

Durwood Zaelke comments on the next phase in saving the ozone layer, which would yet again, have a real impact on climate change. 108 countries are supporting this measure, but two giants, China and India are not. 

He says, “The reluctance of these two countries is blocking the world’s single biggest and fastest bite out of the climate problem." 

I don't know what the answer is. I don't know why nations would block measures that will stop the collapse of ecosystems and ultimately our planet. 
But if those nations need dollar value, then that could be expressed fairly simply too. 

We know that Burns Bog, for example, stops flooding and filters air and water. Both of these have an impact on human health and both of these functions would have to be replaced somehow at a cost. 
The health system would similarly be over-stretched dealing with respiratory and other conditions that would result from the bog's disappearance. Burns Bog saves the Province's taxpayers money. So how much do all our natural resources save us? More than we can possibly imagine.

We humans have a lot to answer for. 
And a lot to pay for. 

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