Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said today that all countries, including poor Third World nations, must curb ozone-destroying chemicals that she said threaten life on Earth.
“Simply to carry on as we are is not an option,” Thatcher said at the end of a 120-nation conference on phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons. The chemical compounds are used in aerosol products, refrigerators and air-conditioners.
The meeting began Sunday and 20 countries have since joined the 31 that signed the 1987 Montreal Protocol requiring that production of the chemicals be cut in half by the turn of the century.
Thatcher acknowledged that action on the compounds was likely to begin in industrial nations.
However, she added, “It is not a case of some countries asking other countries to act. It is a case of every country taking action.”
She said the world’s people must “change their customs and habits in what they buy and what they do” in order to “overcome one of the greatest challenges to life on Earth.”
The compounds are stable and nontoxic when released into the atmosphere, but when they rise 15 to 25 miles to the stratosphere, 10 to 100 years later, they break apart and their chlorine atoms destroy the ozone shield that protects the Earth from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet rays.
The compounds also trap heat and warm global temperatures, causing potentially major climate changes in a process known as the greenhouse effect.
In other remarks today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief William K. Reilly told reporters: “I think we are all in this together. We are all going to have to find ways to collaborate and clear this mess up. It affects us all.”
Britain’s Prince Charles said on Monday that, “There is surely an overwhelming scientific case to change the (Montreal) treaty from a reduction to complete elimination.”
The heir to the British throne, who banned aerosols with the compounds from Kensington Palace and his other households last year, urged a consumer boycott of products containing the chemicals.