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Environment Science

Get well soon, Ozone layer

In 1987, the world joined hands for the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer. It appears the planet is now beginning to reap the rewards of that handshake.

Breathe easy because damage to the ozone layer is showing signs of healing. It’s big news because ozone layer damage affects everything that breathes oxygen.

What is the ozone layer?

The ozone layer forms a protective barrier 10 to 50 km above the Earth’s surface shielding us from most of the Sun’s ultraviolet or UV rays. Excessive exposure to UV rays can affect the oxygen we breathe, damage marine and plant life, destroy organic and synthetic materials used outdoors, and cause skin cancer and poor immunity in people.

What damaged the ozone layer and what are we doing to fix it?

The ozone layer started depleting due to decades of unrestrained use of CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons – common chemicals used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, aerosol sprays and industrial applications.

Governments who acted on agreements made at the Montreal Protocol began using ozone-friendly alternatives of CFCs which gradually made a difference.

A recent study published in the scientific publication, Nature, noted recovery and even reversal of the ozone layer’s depletion. Scientists studying the ozone layer, and specifically the large ozone layer hole above Antarctica, observed climate change in the Southern Hemisphere which can be attributed to the recovery.

Is the ozone layer on the road to full recovery?

Even as the ozone hole over the Southern Hemisphere shrinks, a new one has opened up above the Northern Hemisphere. The good work being done globally after the Montreal Protocol must continue through many more decades. If current emission rates are sustained, the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere can recover fully by 2030 and that over the Southern Hemisphere by 2060.

By Romeo Coutinho

Rationalist, truth seeker, full time writer, part time dreamer.

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