Good News–the Ozone Holes Are No Longer Growing

     Perhaps you remember back to 1985 when scientists discovered a thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer.  The depletion was most extreme over the north and south poles.   This depletion of the ozone layer was a serious problem, since ozone protects the earth and its inhabitants from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.  The reason for the growing ozone holes was the widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), substances which were used in refrigerators, spray cans, and in many other consumer products. 

     But a 1987 treaty, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, led to a worldwide phase-out of the production and consumption of these harmful chemicals.  According to a recent report by UN scientists, these substances have been cut by 98% worldwide.  As a result, stratospheric ozone is no longer thinning, and the ozone holes over the polar regions have stopped growing.

     If it hadn’t been for the Montreal Protocol and compliance by countries around the world, “atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050,” says Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme.  Such an increase, he explains, could have led to 20 million additional cases of skin cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts, not to mention damage to human immune systems, wildlife and agriculture.

     Scientists predict that, thanks to the virtual elimination of CFCs, the ozone layer outside the polar regions will return to pre-1980 levels before the middle of this century.  The ozone layer over the poles, however, will take much longer to recover.

     “The Montreal Protocol is an outstanding example of collaboration among scientists and decision-makers that has resulted in the successful mitigation of a serious environmental and societal threat,” notes Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization. 

     In addition to halting ozone depletion in the stratosphere, the Montreal Protocol also reduces climate change, according to the report, “because many substances that deplete the ozone layer are also potent greenhouse gases.”

     The news is not all good, however.  CFCs have been replaced by substances called hydrochlorofluorocarbons.  While these substances do not harm the ozone layer, they are a much more potent greenhouse gas than the most abundant greenhouse gas–carbon dioxide.–April Moore

 

hole in the ozone layer

hole in the ozone layer

 

 

    

    

One Response to “Good News–the Ozone Holes Are No Longer Growing”

  1. Judy Muller Says:

    This is wonderful news, very heartening. I had not heard this before. This gives hope and encouragement, that if we can learn to live without CFCs, we can learn to live without other things that continue to harm our environment.

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