Finally some good news: restoring the ozone layer

According to a report by the UN, the ozone layer is slowly but surely recovering.

In 1985, scientists first discovered holes in the ozone layer that were not supposed to be there. The ozone layer is a very important part of the earth’s atmosphere because it shields us and the entire planet from harmful UV radiation. Without it, the sun’s radiation could easily reach the earth’s surface and cause grave sunburn, immune system suppression and damage to DNA. This in turn might lead to skin cancer and other high-risk illnesses. 

Back then, people were scared of and worried about this newly discovered phenomenon in the atmosphere, and they wanted to prevent it from expanding. Therefore, already in 1987, an agreement was reached to ban chemicals that destroy the ozone layer. It is called the Montreal Protocol, and 46 countries signed it. The arrangement basically obliged the countries who signed it to phase out and ban these harmful chemicals (so-called CFCs), which can be found in spray cans and refrigerators, among others. By now, all countries of the world have joined in on the Montreal Protocol.

Montreal Protocol successful

Ever since then, scientists have been monitoring the holes in the layer with satellites. And just now, the UN, US and EU published their latest report that shows that the depletion of the ozone layer is slowing down. Those are finally some good news! It seems as though the ban on chemicals worked as predicted – at least to a certain extent.

The depletion of the ozone layer does not directly cause climate change, the report also states. However, it is very helpful in preventing the rise in temperature. Moreover, the chemicals that have been banned are also greenhouse gases.

The Montreal Protocol proves that international law-making and collaboration can be effective when it comes to environmental issues. This also sets a good example for future treaties and agreements. It should be considered in order to prevent further fatal catastrophes.

Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done — as a matter of urgency — to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.

Petteri Taalas
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General

However, even with the good news at hand, we cannot let our guard down: the future is and remains unpredictable. Only our own behaviour can impact the coming years and the wellbeing of the planet Earth. Even if the trend in restoring the ozone layer is positive since 2016 and banned chemicals are constantly being replaced by less harmful ones, we have to continue working on keeping it this way. It is important that the policies and laws that are in place, stay in place. Only in this way can the ozone layer keep healing.

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