The ozone layer 10-30 miles above the earth, acts as a shield against ultra-violet (UV) radiation from the sun. Large areas of the ozone layer have been destroyed and plants and animals are exposed to high levels of UV radiation. A hole extends over the North Pole and as far south as Northern Europe, including Britain, Canada and the USA, and over the South Pole as far north as Australia, New Zealand and South America. The possible effects of more UV radiation reaching the surface of the earth includes an increase in skin cancer in humans and animals, damage to plant growth, destruction of plankton, the food for many fish, and serious ecological breakdown as the oceans food chain is disrupted.
For over fifty years we made the chemicals chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and used them in our refrigerators, take-away foam containers and aerosol cans. Just like the pesticides we spray on our fields and the plastic bags we use once and then throw away, they were so convenient nobody cared to challenge their safety. In the early 1970s, we were warned that CFCs were responsible for the destruction of the ozone shield which protects the earth from UV radiation, but took no action because governments and businesses wanted more proof. It took nearly fifteen years before anything was done. By 1990, the world's governments agreed to phase out CFCs by 1996. CFCs are so stable, however, that they will continue to destroy the ozone layer well into the twenty-first century.
It was an achievement, that scientists found the link between CFCs and the destruction of the ozone layer and took action to ban these chemicals. But why were CFCs not adequately tested before they were used in production in the 1940s? Why did it take so long to ban them? In a rapidly changing world, foot dragging is ridiculous. Action taken now, in all areas of environmental safety, will avoid more costly damage later.
There are good economic reasons to protect the environment. Stopping CFC's and other chemicals from destroying the Earth's ozone layer saved millions of people from skin cancer, and saved the world's fishing industry and agriculture from the effects of UV radiation damage. If the ozone layer had not been protected there would have been losses in food production from reduced plant photosynthesis and a lower fish catch from the disruption of aquatic food chains.
What you can do
Use the precautionary principle when adopting new technology. Live simply.