Dear Umbra,

Any chance that the most extreme of the peak-oil folks are correct, and that in spite of our thoughtlessness, we just won’t have enough oil to totally destroy the ozone layer?

Dan Wasson
Pittsburgh, Penn.

Dearest Dan,

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Oil has very little to do with the ozone layer, but it does have to do with global warming. Global warming and ozone depletion are, for our daily purposes, two separate issues. They both involve gaseous, human-generated emissions, mysterious atmospheric phenomena, and wishing we had paid attention in chemistry class, but the similarity stops there.

Psst … remember me?

The ozone layer, up in the stratosphere, blocks UVB rays from entering our atmosphere in large numbers. Ozone depletion is attributed to anthropogenic gases (chlorofluorocarbons, methyl bromide, and others) cleverly known as “ozone depleting substances.” These are expelled down here in the atmosphere, then travel up through the troposphere and into the stratosphere, where UV rays bust them up, causing them to release atoms that eat away at the ozone layer. Infamous ODS sources are refrigerants, including those in air conditioners; aerosols; solvents; methyl bromide, which is a soil fumigant; and foam-blowing agents. If you wish to understand all you can about ozone depletion, please visit the lovely EPA site on the topic.

Oil and the burning of oil, on the other hand, are associated with global climate change, as the burning of oil releases “greenhouse gases.” What I think you’re asking is whether we will run out of oil before we completely mangle our climate. If the most extreme of the peak-oil folks are correct, and we have reached or passed the point at which world oil production will start a steady decline, it may be that oil will not deal the final maiming blows. Not to worry. Coal is ready to step right up and grab the bludgeon. We have plenty of coal.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But according to some climate analysts, we have already gone past the point of no return. We’re hosed! Don’t worry, have a home brew with Dick, Gale, and George! They’re not worried! Wouldn’t they tell us if they were worried?