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Under the Sun
The ozone layer is vanishing faster than anyone thought
Last week the Environmental Protection Agency made public an alarming report from a team of NASA researchers who discovered that the ozone layer, which protects living things from the sun's ultraviolet rays, is being depleted more than twice as fast as scientists had thought.
Eileen Claussen, who is the EPA's specialist on ozone, projects that the accelerated depletion will mean that 12 million Americans—not 500,000, as had been previously predicted—will develop skin cancer in the next 50 years, and that more than 200,000 of those cancer victims—not 9,300—will die. EPA administrator William Reilly said that the new research "is unexpected, it is disturbing, and it possesses implications we have not yet had time to fully explore."
One of those implications is the need to speed up plans for replacing chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals used in refrigerators and aerosols, that rise in the atmosphere and eat away at the ozone. Last June at a London conference on ozone depletion, 70 nations agreed that developed countries should cease production of chlorofluorocarbons by the year 2000 (developing countries would have until 2010). After Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric physicist with the Environmental Defense Fund, heard about NASA's new data, he said, "First, we have to speed up that schedule. Second, we have to increase assistance to poor countries so they can buy substitute chemicals quicker. Third, industry has to develop even more substitute chemicals."
The one encouraging note in last week's bad news was that it came from the EPA and thus, by extension, the Bush Administration. That raises hopes that the U.S. will move on the ozone crisis in the immediate future.
Still, any changes in international policy may have to wait. Claussen, who says she was "amazed, shocked, stunned" when she heard about the new evidence, will present the findings at the 1991 conference this June in Nairobi. She notes that amendments to the current accords must be proposed six months in advance of the summits. "They can't be changed this year based upon the report," she says. "But European countries have already said they want to move faster on this, and with this new information, I think there will be amendments in 1992." There is clearly no time to waste.
The 49ers bid Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott goodbye
There was a great deal of moaning and mourning among San Francisco 49er fans last week in the wake of the departures of running back Roger Craig and safety Ronnie Lott, two of the most prominent members of the Team of the '80s. Thanks to Plan B free agency and the 49ers' reluctance to sign them to multiyear contracts, Craig and Lott are now Los Angeles Raiders.