Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lee M. Thomas, acknowledging mounting evidence that the threat to the Earth’s protective ozone layer is greater than previously thought, said Tuesday that the United States should strive to secure a total ban on ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons within 10 years.
Representatives of 46 nations signed an international protocol last year in Montreal agreeing to freeze the use and production of man-made chlorofluorocarbons--known as CFCs--at 1986 levels starting in 1989 and then to gradually reduce their use by 50% within 10 years.
Ozone is a toxic pollutant at ground level but at high altitudes protects life on Earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
But, since the Montreal Protocol was signed last year, there has been growing scientific evidence--and agreement from CFC manufacturers and users themselves--that the threat to the ozone layer is far greater than suspected even a year ago.
“My own position is probably going to be that we should look at the same kind of 10-year time frame that we talked about before, and instead of a 50% (reduction), we should talk in terms of phase-outs,” Thomas said. “That’s where I started when I went into the negotiations before. I’ll probably be coming from that same position. The U.S. will probably be coming from that same position.”
Thomas’ remarks were made to reporters shortly before addressing the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the New Otani Hotel.
Last week, Thomas, who represented the United States in Montreal, said the protocol must be amended to totally ban all CFC production. At the time, however, Thomas did not outline a specific timetable and was criticized by some environmental groups for not offering a specific deadline.
Thomas’ statement appeared to underscore his determination to set the agenda for quicker action before the Reagan Administration leaves office.
Thomas cautioned that various technical, scientific and economic issues would have to be taken into consideration. In addition, he said other countries would have to agree. How quickly a ban can be imposed will depend in large part on how quickly a CFC substitute can be developed.
But, DuPont Co., the world’s major manufacturer of CFCs, said last week that it will begin commercial production in 1990 of a substitute. The compound, known as HCFC-134a, has long been considered by industry as a potential substitute for CFC-12, which is used in auto air conditioners, home and commercial refrigerators, freezers and large building air conditioners.
A total ban is now backed by the CFC industry’s Alliance for a Responsible CFC Policy.
Earlier this year, an international team of scientists led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that the ozone layer has been depleted by an average of about 2.3% since 1969 over most of the nation and by as much as 5% over the South Pole. The severity of the depletion exceeded even the disturbing projections available at the time the Montreal Protocol was reached.
The protocol is expected to take effect next January, when the requisite 11 nations representing 60% of CFC production sign the document. So far, eight nations including the United States, have signed.