Its worth thinking as we head towards the all important Paris climate talks that we have made some progress on two environmental problems. I was reminded of this this week as England introduces a charge for plastic bags. Its not the first place in the world to do so nor will it be the last. The problem of shredded plastic at the visible and microscopic level is a huge one and is going to last for decades (maybe longer) but this is at least the first step in solving it. Everywhere the charge has been introduced plastic bag use has dropped massively.
The other one of the two environmental problems that has been partially solved is that of the hole in the ozone layer. Scientists at the British Antarctic survey found it over the Antarctic using a weather balloon. Caused by CFC’s used as coolant in refrigeration the Montreal protocol lead to their banning. Not to do so would have let harmful UVC radiation through, something the ozone layer stops. UVC is radiation our skin is not used to dealing with. Civilisation has not crashed and alternatives have been found.
Neither of the two environmental problems I have described have been solved completely. There is an enormous amount of plastic in the ocean and according to a very worrying report on the radio we are eating microscopic plastic everyday. The hole in the ozone layer is healing but not gone. Nevertheless starting to solve these two problems should encourage us to start to solve the really big one, climate change. Of course all these problems are or were a symptom of our oil and energy addiction.