According to a report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the ozone layer is on the track to recovery. The estimation results show that it has to do with political determination to phase out the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals.
The ozone layer protects our planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the Sun. Since 1985, when scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, there has been much effort to prevent its further decline by phasing out the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, which were widely used in different products, such as refrigerators and aerosols. In 1987, almost 200 countries ratified the Montreal Protocol, which banned the use of these substances.
According to UNEP scientists, the concentration of these substances in the atmosphere could have increased tenfold by 2050, if the Montreal Protocol had not been put into effect. At the same time, along with the protection of wildlife and agriculture, the protocol is estimated to have prevented 2 million cases of skin cancer by 2030.
“There are positive indications that the ozone layer is on track to recovery towards the middle of the century,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “The Montreal Protocol — one of the world’s most successful environmental treaties — has protected the stratospheric ozone layer and avoided enhanced UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.”
However, it cannot be said for sure if the ozone hole will completely recover by itself, since the ozone-depleting substances can remain in the atmosphere for years. Moreover, there still are other persistent environmental issues that contribute to global warming and climate change. In particular, WMO recently said that the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had reached a record high.
The problem is that some chemicals that have replaced ozone-depleting substances are still potent greenhouse gases. New environment-friendly substitutes need to be found, and further actions need to be taken to stop the global warming and help recover the ozone layer to its 1980s condition. See Below:
As WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said, “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story. This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”
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Featured image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “2009 Antarctic Ozone Hole,” Via Flickr. CC BY 2.0