Satellite image of earth clouds
(Photo credit: NASA)

The ozone hole was once considered the world’s most urgent environmental threat. Today, international attention is focused on global warming.

Shepherd: “It’s really interesting because something that I have noticed over the years as a climate scientist is that people do confuse or conflate the ozone hole with climate change. I think people just don’t understand that they are two very distinct and separate processes.”

Marshall Shepherd is director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia. He explains that the ozone hole was caused by chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs.

Shepherd: “These were harmful chemicals in many things that were used in society – in refrigerants, in aerosol spray cans – that were drifting up into the stratosphere causing chemical reactions that led to depletion of ozone.”

Global warming has a different cause. It’s driven by greenhouse gases that come primarily from burning fossil fuels. In the atmosphere, these gases trap heat like the blanket that keeps you warm at night.

Today, most CFC’s have been banned, and Shepherd says the ozone hole is on the mend. But the world continues to wrestle with the best way to reduce global warming pollution.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.