While the role of CFCs in depleting the ozone layer is well-known, there are many other gases that deplete ozone and act as greenhouse gases. The role of these gases was explained by Paul Crutzen, who got the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.
Early Life and Education
Paul Jozef Crutzen was born in 1933 in Amsterdam. After completing his high school, he took a degree in civil engineering in 1954. He went to study at the University of Stockholm getting a Ph.D. (1968) and a D.Sc. (1973). He now works at the Department of Atmospheric Chemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.
Crutzen was interested in the role of nitrogen oxides (NOX) in the destruction of the ozone layer. He showed that these oxides decomposed in the presence of light, to yield free radicals – reactive atoms that could react with ozone to form oxygen. As industrialization progresses, more NOX are released into the atmosphere by jet planes, factories etc. Cumulatively, this leads to a major environmental problem. He accumulated a large amount of data showing how serious the problem was becoming.
For this, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995, which he shared with Mario Molina and Frank Rowland.
Paul Crutzen has since been an active campaigner for nuclear and environmental issues. In 1982, along with John Birks, he published a theoretical paper, which showed what could happen to the earth’s atmosphere after a war involving nuclear weapons. The paper showed that particulate matter released into the atmosphere by nuclear explosions could block 99% of sunlight from reaching the ground. This could kill plants and trigger cooling of the earth. This horrible scenario is now known as Nuclear Winter.
Recently, Crutzen also demonstrated how biofuels emit more NOX than conventional fuels, posing a greater hazard.
Paul Crutzen introduced the idea of 'Nuclear Winter' to show how nuclear weapons would destroy the earth.