In the late 1920s, Thomas Midgley, Jr. improved the process of synthesis and led the effort to use chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, as refrigerants: to replace ammonia (NH3), chloromethane (CH3Cl), and sulfur dioxide (SO2), all of which are toxic but were in common use. In searching for a new refrigerant, the requirements for the compound were that it had to have a low boiling point, low toxicity, and to be generally non-reactive. However, Thomas Midgley Jr. purportedly seriously considered the alternate possibility of pushing for the use of BFCs, bromofluorocarbons, instead of CFCs. BFC's are extremely unreactive, stable and inert, non-flammable and non-toxic- in all of these regards, more so than CFC's. And at room temperature, they're also usually colourless gases or liquids which evaporate easily. However, their boiling points are slightly higher than CFCs, so he went along with CFCs instead.

So then, what would have happened in an alternate timeline where he'd elected to go along with BFCs instead of CFCs, and it had been BFCs (or 'Halon') which had been adopted and seen widespread use instead of CFCs ('Freon')? Especially given that BFCs have markedly longer atmospheric lifetimes than CFCs, are even more potent as greenhouse gases, and are at least twice as potent when it comes to ozone depletion? How much more environmental damage would their adoption have caused in this TL, and what would the knock-on effects have been- for instance, how much bigger would the holes in the ozone layer have gotten, and could they have potentially grown beyond the planet's capacity to recover? And if so, how much more damage could have been inflicted upon ecologies (especially in polar and sub-polar regions), and the human population?

  • $\begingroup$ What exact damage to the "ecologies" and the human population did the use of chlorofluorocarbons do? As far as I know, the only effect attributable to the use of CFCs is the modification of the continuity of the ozone layer, which is an interesting fact but it is not of major interest to anybody in particular; and even that is alleged -- we observed at a certain point in time that it had a hole, but we are not really certain when that hole appeared or why. Do you know of anybody, man, penguin, or seal, who died because of the effects of the use of CFCs? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 20:45

1 Answer 1


Same effect.


Halon is specifically listed as harmful to the ozone layer. Bromine does the same evil that Chlorine does.

As for the question itself, from the source

HFCs, CFCs and HFCs contribute an estimated 11.5% to present-day effect of GHGs on climate and climate change.

Soo multiply it how potent is the difference, but for climate the thing isn't on top of the list. As for ozone there is no info in the source, but I guess, it less refregiration units problem, and more with what you fill deodorant(and other) cans with.

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    $\begingroup$ Did what I think minor edit, to reflect content of the link in case if it spoils over time, idk if it useful or up to u taste $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 7:06

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