NASA played the role of the Grinch that stole Christmas when it proclaimed that it had
absolute proof that manmade chemicals were destroying the ozone layer.
The proof turned out to be the "discovery" that one of its satellites had
detected hydrogen fluoride (HF) over the south pole. NASA's startling claim was made in a
press conference on December 19, 1994, just in time to dampen America's Christmas cheer.
NASA scientists asserted that HF can be produced only from manmade sources. Therefore,
they claimed, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) is the trigger that causes thinning of the ozone
layer. This happens when sunlight breaks down the CFCs, freeing HF and chlorine. The
chlorine then reacts with the ozone.
It is incredible that NASA would release such blatantly incorrect information. To say
in absolute and unequivocal terms that HF can only come from manmade sources is an
assertion refuted by scientific literature.
Not only is HF produced naturally, but most natural HF is produced in the Antarctic. It
is surprising that NASA was surprised at this "discovery!"
An article in the November 1990 Geophysical Research Letters reports the
results of extensive measurements of volcanic gases taken in 1983 from Mt. Erebus in
Antarctica. These results showed that hydrogen chloride (HCl) and HF emissions were 1,230
and 480 tons per day respectively.
The above article goes on to explain that Mt. Erebus's HCL and HF emissions
"are extremely high and comparable to the lower limits of total global volcanic
Thus, Mt. Erebus spews out over 150,000 tons of HF in the Antarctica stratosphere. Only
2,480 tons per year of fluorine are theoretically released by the alleged breakup of CFCs.
Even more curious is that most CFCs are produced in the northern hemisphere, yet
little to no corresponding ozone thinning has occurred at the north pole!
Another article in the 8/4/88 edition of Nature affirmed "Naturally
degassing volcanoes also emit significant quantities of HF, some of which is directly
injected into the stratosphere. Thus, volcanoes should be regarded as a significant source
of tropospheric and stratospheric HF."
Flagrantly incorrect assertions like the one made by NASA are extremely serious.
The proposed ban on CFCs is already having a shocking effect. Americans are discovering
that a $15 Freon recharge of their air conditioner in 1992 now costs $70 to
$150, if it can be done at all. Freon has become a hot
smuggling item on the black market.
The bad news doesn't stop there. It seems the chemicals substituting for CFCs are also
stratospheric ozone eaters. Speculation is that this replacement equipment will be banned
by the year 2000.
Prudence would dictate that at a minimum, a risk analysis should be conducted before
placing such a huge burden on Americans. Yet, anyone who suggests it is attacked as a
The reason a risk analysis is scorned is obvious. Americans might not be so eager to
take the cool hundred billion dollars or so out of their pockets that the ban would cost.
Especially if they knew it was being thrown down another environmental black hole for a
potentially low risk problem.
For instance, most people are unaware that the ozone thickness at both poles nearly
doubles in the winter months and is thinnest in the late summer and fall. Nor do they know
that stratospheric ozone thinning occurs almost exclusively at the south pole. And it only
thins during late winter and early spring -- just when the ozone layer has past its peak
Even if thinning were to occur in the far northern hemisphere, it would be in February
and March when there is little risk to sunbathers and agricultural crops! So why the fuss?
Another little known fact is that the ozone layer is as much as 130 percent thicker at
the poles as at the equator when polar thinning occurs. A simple computation reveals that
a 10 percent thinning at the north pole (an improbable worst case scenario) would be
benign. Santa and his reindeer would still have double the ozone thickness protecting them
from the weak Arctic sun than is found naturally at the equator under the intense
Closer to home, citizens of Washington, D.C. naturally have over 7 percent
less ozone protecting them than those in Boston! And a Boston family taking a late winter
vacation in the Miami sun would have 25 percent less ozone protection than they
did when they left their frigid home.
This information is well known to NASA and others. Yet, there are no apocalyptic
warnings for southerners to move north where the ozone layer would be thicker -- even
after CFCs "might" thin it!
Strong evidence suggests that there is low risk in waiting to learn if we really need
to ban CFCs. Diverting massive sums of money to fix low risk problems could be costing our
economy over a trillion dollars annually according to a July 1992 Heritage Foundation
study. By squandering our resources on environmental black holes having low risk, we may
find we no longer have the wealth to protect the environment at all.
NASA has done this nation a serious disservice by making such false statements. It is a
classic example of why Americans have become disillusioned about self-serving
bureaucracies that hurt the citizens they are supposed to serve.