Ozone layer and climate: the responsibility of the air conditioning and refrigeration industry
Over 35 years ago, a group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica. For the first time ever, the discovery raised awareness about the dangers of UV radiation. The ozone layer is a thin part of the Earth’s atmosphere that should absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Therefore, ozone depletion reduces the ozone’s filtering capacity, allowing UV rays to reach the Earth’s surface with serious consequences for the environment and human health: skin cancer, eye and vision damage, negative impact on agricultural production, and much more.
The main cause of ozone depletion was found to be CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). At that time, these refrigerant gases were commonly found in aerosol cans, spray foam insulation and, above all, widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems, as they are chemically stable, non-toxic, non-flammable and affordable.
Following this discovery in 1985, the entire world worked together to find a quick solution. The Montreal Protocol, signed just two years later in 1987, sealed the commitment of 197 nations to phase out the production of CFCs. Labelled by the scientific community as ‘one of the most important and successful global environmental treaties ever’, the Montreal Protocol definitely helped to turn the tide. As stated by the UN report, if current policies remain in place, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 values by around 2066 over the Antarctic, by 2045 over the Arctic, and by 2040 for the rest of the world.
However, scientists from the University of Bristol and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have recently uncovered a sharp increase in global atmospheric concentrations of five CFC chemicals between 2010 and 2020. Although the experts assure that this fact will not interfere with the recovery of the ozone layer, the research team estimated that this concentration of CFCs in the atmosphere affected global warming. The amount of these gases emitted in 2020 had an equivalent warming effect to the total carbon emissions for a country like Switzerland. Caution and compliance, therefore, remain crucial.
Sad to say, but the ozone hole has, without a doubt, contributed to raising public and, specifically, the cooling community’s awareness of the importance of environmental protection.
The steps taken since 1985 prove this: from the almost total lack of awareness of the environmental risks of chlorofluorocarbons, we have arrived at the low-GWP refrigerants we use today, in a journey made not overnight but over almost 40 years of research, mistakes and improvements.
The concept of refrigerant leak has changed over time thanks to the European F-Gas Regulation whose goal is to thoroughly regulate the management of fluorinated gases and provide for certified professionals only. The definition of clear goals linked to deadlines that cannot be postponed and the inclusion of specific sanctions in the event of non-compliance with repairs and controls emphasise, even more, the global attention paid to the problem.
Errecom’s mission is to increase awareness of the importance of maintenance, not only to solve problems but also to prevent them. Hopefully, we all have learned something from the past: there is no more time to lose!