Video recorded in 2006. Sherwood Rowland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work in the atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of Ozone in 1995.


 

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In this interview Sherwood Rowland talks about Ozone depletion and the effect of CFCs on Ozone and Global Warming (Greenhouse Warming where infrared radiation is trapped). He explains the chemistry of Ozone depletion and the history of what led to the banning of CFCs starting in 1974 with his joint first publication on the subject with Mario Molina which advocated banning CFCs. This led in 1995 to a ban on CFCs being used in aerosol sprays (limited to the State of Oregon) and a year later a total ban of the use of CFCs in aerosol sprays. He says that the ban was brought about by public coverage of the damage to the Ozone i.e. Newspaper coverage (over 400 newspapers in the US alone covered the story).

The second half of the interview gives Rowland`s current opinion/impression of Global Warming. He says that the first legislated discussion that he remembers in the US senate on the Global Warming was in 1986 and the looming problem and whether governments should be active in this area was discussed. The IPPC (International Panel on Climate Change) in 1990 had the view that Global Warming was a problem that we would certainly encounter in the future. In 1995 he said it looked like we could see a signal showing Global Warming, in 2001 the signal was more intense and in 2006 the IPPC said that Global Warming is not a problem for the future it was already happening in the Polar North, where as predicted by modeling in around 1990 there could be a feedback problem. Rowland explains that sun light should be reflected by large amounts of ice without having an effect on the atmosphere but if the ice melts the radiation is absorbed instead of being reflected giving positive feedback and this increases the temperature of the earth by the absorption heat. Rowland says that we are now seeing this happen.

In 2001 US Academy of Science was asked by the Bush Administration whether the IPCC statements reflected the mainstream scientific opinion and the answer said Rowland is `yes`. At the time of this interview (June 2006) Rowland says that Europe has made promises to reduce Greenhouse gases but that there is a denial in the US that Global Warming will happen, that anything is happening and that there is any sign of Global Warming happening. Rowland himself says that it is hard to deny that Alaska and other parts of the Frozen North are melting and hard to deny that this is unusual. Further, it is difficult to say that this is the way the climate should vary. He says that political views have coloured our interpretation of climate change and policies towards taking or not taking action. During the duration of the Bush administration and since 9/11, acknowledgement of the problem has disappeared and the members of cabinet who most strongly wanted to do something about it have also disappeared. He says we are left with the present situation - the view that Global Warming does not need to be dealt with, certainly not by the Bush administration. Rowland`s assessment of the situation is that we can`t answer whether there is a point of no return as we don`t know. We do not have enough knowledge but he says that he thinks we should operate precaution as we may reach the point of no return. When asked if he agrees with James Lovelock`s predictions he says that the rise in sea level by 2100, estimated by the IPCC in 2001 to be between1-3 feet (1 Meter upper limit) is now thought to be a conservative estimate and the Greenland ice situation is deteriorating more rapidly than predicted. Rowland says that it is thought that the sea level may rise by 3 foot or maybe more by the end of the century wiping out a good bit of Florida, the Gulf Coast and one third of Bangladesh for instance. The rise in the level of the sea alone from Global Warming he says would be a major disturbance.

Rowland ends by discussing his view on `engineering the atmosphere` with for example `Iron Fertilization` and cautions that we need to know what we doing and what the possible side effects might be before going ahead. Finally, he is asked about his quote `If the White House is not taking Global Warming seriously, Wall Street is!`


 

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Photo of F. Sherwood Rowland



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