More protection: UN says Earth's ozone layer is healing - International

James Marshall
November 8, 2018

While climate change concerns continue to mount, a new United Nations-backed report delivered a positive environmental update: Earth's ozone layer is finally healing. Scientific evidence of the depletion of the ozone layer over the Antarctic was first presented in 1985, and in 1987 the Montreal protocol was signed, binding world governments to reduce and phase out the harmful chemicals identified as causing the problem.

"The careful mix of authoritative science and collaborative action that has defined the Protocol for more than 30 years and was set to heal our ozone layer is precisely why the Kigali Amendment holds such promise for climate action in future". Unseen, a layer of ozone encircles Earth's stratosphere protecting us from most of the harmful effects of ultraviolet light from the sun.

Aerosol spray and coolants made before the ban contained man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which released chlorine and bromine that ate away at the ozone.

This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at almost 9.6 million square miles (24.8 million square kilometers). The hole reaches its peak in September and October and disappears by late December until the next Southern Hemisphere spring.

The ozone layer starts at about 6 miles (10 kilometers) above Earth and stretches for almost 25 miles (40 kilometers); ozone is a colorless combination of three oxygen atoms. He noted that if nothing had been done, two-thirds of the ozone layer would have been destroyed by 2065.

Parts of it could even be fully repaired by the 2030s, the report said.

The report stated: "The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering while continuing to occur every year".

However, while most of the banned gases have been phased out, the report found at least one violation of the protocol: an unexpected increase in production and emissions of CFC-11 from eastern Asia since 2012.

On its own, the ozone hole has slightly shielded Antarctica from the much larger effects of global warming - it has heated up but not as much as it likely would without ozone depletion, said Ross Salawitch, a University of Maryland atmospheric scientist who co-authored the report.

"It shows that the ozone layer is under fix, and highlights areas that must be strengthened for it to be an equally successful platform to phase out HFCs to limit global warming", said Shikha Bhasin, programme lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). Newman said we'll need to ensure that the replacements for these gases don't worsen global warming.

This healing progress is attributed to worldwide initiatives under the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement that was formed more than 30 years ago in response to climate change concerns.

"I don't think we can do a victory lap until 2060", Newman said. "That will be for our grandchildren to do".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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