Times Changes its Hole Position on Ozone Layer

Times  Changes its Hole Position on Ozone Layer

By Dan Gainor

     When is an encouraging end to a global environmental problem really a bad thing? When its in the New York Times, of course.

     The problem began decades ago when scientists first detected a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Since, the ozone layer shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays, environmental groups complained long and hard about the dangers.

     As the Times explained in an August 3, 2003 piece by Andrew C. Revkin, Recognition that most of the damage came from a group of synthetic chemicals -- chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC's -- led in 1987 to the passage of a treaty, the Montreal Protocol, phasing out the substances.

     Fortunately, the problem is actually going away. The piece continued: Now, 14 years after the treaty took effect, scientists have for the first time reported that the ozone layer shows encouraging signs of healing.

     Of course that was more than a year ago. In the actual now, the Times is unhappy with the new result. The paper led its January 25, 2005 Science section with its latest huge story on global warming. Only this time, the piece by Larry Rohter painted the closing ozone hole as a bad thing. Fortunately for environmentalists they now have a new crisis to promote. Some scientists have even proposed that a healing of the seasonal ozone hole over the South Pole and southernmost Chile, a phenomenon expected to take place in the next 50 years or so, could change the circulation of the atmosphere over the frozen continent in ways that could accelerate the thinning of Antarctic ice fields.

     Rohter was too busy giving only one side of the complex global warming debate to remind readers that the Times and the environmental movement have long viewed the hole in the ozone layer as a problem. Now that the problem is going away, it is suddenly a new potential hazard. If true, that could easily be blamed on the same environmentalists, but again, Rohters story doesnt address that.

     To give a perspective on just how important fixing the ozone hole has been, here is another Times article from November 11, 2003 that highlighted the biggest environmental catastrophes in the world. The story, written by William J. Broad and James Glanz, lumped the ozone hole in with some of the worlds worst disasters.

     But major problems also arose: acid rain, environmental toxins, the Bhopal
chemical disaster, nuclear waste, global warming, the ozone hole, fears over
genetically modified food and the fiery destruction of two space shuttles, not
to mention the curse of junk e-mail. Such troubles have helped feed social
disenchantment with science, stated the story.

     And stories such as Rohters help feed the growing disenchantment with the Times.