Between Earth and Sky: How CFCs Changed Our World and Threatened the Ozone Layer

Between Earth and Sky: How CFCs Changed Our World and Threatened the Ozone Layer

by Seth Cagin, Philip Dray
     
 

By the turn of the twentieth century, the American search for new frontiers led not West but toward a golden age of technology. The invention of the telephone, the electric light bulb, the airplane, and numerous other achievements of science and engineering inspired a faith that technology would always improve the human condition. This same confidence would fuel the…  See more details below

Overview

By the turn of the twentieth century, the American search for new frontiers led not West but toward a golden age of technology. The invention of the telephone, the electric light bulb, the airplane, and numerous other achievements of science and engineering inspired a faith that technology would always improve the human condition. This same confidence would fuel the drive for "better living through chemistry" that produced chlorofluorocarbons - or CFCs. Spanning six decades, the story of CFCs vividly portrays the unintended consequences of technological progress and the ongoing struggle to contain the threat to the global environment. The invention of chlorofluorocarbons in 1928 by General Motors scientist Thomas Midgley, Jr., was celebrated as a boon to humanity: CFCs made possible both the mass proliferation of air conditioning and refrigeration. By the 1950s CFCs had found further applications: as propellants in aerosol spray cans, in the manufacture of Styrofoam, and as vital industrial solvents. Then, in 1974, after millions of tons of CFCs had been released into the Earth's atmosphere, two scientists at the University of California demonstrated that these same "safe" wonder substances had altered the fundamental chemistry of the atmosphere and had begun to erode the ozone layer - the protective shield of all life on earth. The battle to restrict CFCs was fought in laboratories, at international conferences, and in the halls of Congress, pitting environmentalists intent on remedying what had become a global crisis against industrialists and government officials opposed to regulation. Finally, in 1987, fifty-seven nations signed the first global environmental treaty - the Montreal Protocol, which regulated the further production of CFCs and ushered in a new era of international cooperation on the environment. In chronicling the rise and fall of one of the first synthetic chemicals, Cagin and Dray recreate the excitement of the age of invention that spawned

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cagin and Dray ( We Are Not Afraid ) here examine the effect on the earth's atmosphere of chloroflourocarbons. Clarifying the atmospheric science and physical chemistry behind the familiar reports on ozone depletion, the authors artfully explicate scientific background information that the general reader might otherwise set aside through skepticism or lack of understanding. The story traces the success of CFCs from their invention in 1928 as one of the earliest synthetic industrial chemicals, first used in refrigeration , to their widespread use as a propellant in aerosol cans; and from the first cautionary notes raised in the mid-1970s to the political showdown with the chemical lobby in the '80s. The authors hint at the significance of a weakening of our faith in science, but that theme remains mostly a byproduct of the CFC debate in this level-headed record of the arguments in the CFC investigations. (May)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679420521
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/05/1993
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.45(h) x (d)

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