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The Effect CFCs Have on Climate Change

A major issue in climate change is man-made compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and halons. These gases act to destroy earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Scientists have proven that the stratospheric layer makes life possible by shielding the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays that are generated from the sun. Over 90% of the ozone in the atmosphere is concentrated in the stratosphere. Furthermore, when these man-made compounds reach the upper stratosphere, the concentration becomes denser. This eventually depletes and damages the shield. The UV-B would eventually increase, entering earth’s surface. Consequently, affecting human health. While acting to destroy the ozone, CFCs and HCFCs also act to trap heat in the troposphere. Over time these gasses accumulate causing the earth to warm and further changing the climate. HCFCs, and CFCs are the sub-set of a larger group called greenhouse gases. This is a serious issue because as greenhouse gasses accumulate over the earth’s atmosphere layers, they begin to shatter and weaken its natural shield. As individuals we should be more aware of the chemicals we release and should find better solutions to replace them.      

The emission of CFCs and HCFCs are categorized as some of the most toxic gasses in the greenhouse variations. According to MPCA, “Taken together greenhouse gases are expected to warm the planet by 2.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of century.” This reveals that temperature will continue to rise for decades to come. This is largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.  


This is a 3D map of the Atlantic Ocean and the western hemisphere. The red arrow is the gulf stream current. This is also called the Atlantic meridional, where there is an overturning of circulation like a conveyor belt of warm water that is carried from Florida to Greenland. This warm water eventually cools and sinks to 100 meters then travels down to the coast of the tropics. The shades of blue are the concentration of CFCs at the depths of the ocean. Around the location of the equator, CFCs depth only occurs at the surface.  Consequently, as the Gulf stream current moves north, they are pulled down to the converter belt. The darker the blue in the depth scale, the higher CFC-11 levels. Northward the water at the surface absorbs gases like carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons. This causes excess heat and is one of the main reasons why the ozone layer over Antarctica is depleting. Keeping this in mind, the effects become worldwide as the ice melts causing an increase in sea level rise. This result affects seasonal weathering. We then see longer summers and shorter winters. This, in turn, relates to climate change as the earth accumulates heat over decades.  

Most common CFC chemicals are refrigerants. These are non-flammable, and liquefied chemicals that are used for air conditioners, fire extinguishing agents, heating/cooling systems, and aerosol propellants. This means that CFC chemicals are used in many applications and they are relied upon constantly. The international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol, forged in 1987, which was then strengthened by the 2016 amendment, is a multi-phased plan. A start to a solution acknowledging that these chemicals have ozone depleting properties. According to the book “Plastic Product Materials and Process” by Dominick V. Rosato, “The plastics industry, as well as other industries, has been phasing out CFCs,252 which were once widely used in producing foam products .249 CFCs chlorine components reportedly destroy ozone in the upper atmosphere.” This means that halogenated CFCs are being gradually eliminated in Polystyrene foam food packaging. These actions are a 95% of an improvement, such that PS foam cups now are 100% CFC-free. 

 Unfortunately, these solutions cannot directly stop to emissions of CFCs into the atmosphere. Furthermore, it is extremely crucial to find a solution or replacement for CFCs. Some alternatives are natural refrigerants that do not contain chlorine or bromine, which are currently highly regulated by the EPA because of its environmental toxicity. Another example is switching to HFCs-152a, 365mfc, and 227ea. These are chemicals that have a shorter atmospheric lifetime and deliver less reactive chlorine.  

Works Cited: 

Walsh, John. “Climate Science Supplement.” National Climate Assessment,                nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/appendices/climate-science-supplement.   

MPCA“Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 11 Jan. 2019, www.pca.state.mn.us/air/chlorofluorocarbons-cfcs-and-hydrofluorocarbons-hfcs.   

Rosato, D. V., Rosato, D. V., & Rosato, M. V. (2004). Plastic product material and process selection handbook. Kidlington, Oxford, UK: Elsevier.   

EPA. “Phaseout of Class II Ozone-Depleting Substances.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 25 Aug. 2020, www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout/phaseout-class-ii-ozone-depleting-substances.   

Gray, Ellen. “MIT Study Evaluates Efficiency of Oceans as Heat Sink, Atmospheric Gases Sponge – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet.” NASA, NASA, 26 June 2017, climate.nasa.gov/news/2598/nasa-mit-study-evaluates-efficiency-of-oceans-as-heat-sink-atmospheric-gases-sponge/.    

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