The UN predicts it will be fully recovered in 2066.
image via Sky News
The Ozone Layer
About 21% of the earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen, the majority of which is present as a stable molecule made up of two oxygen atoms. However, in the upper stratosphere, sunlight has the power to split some of these molecules into free oxygen atoms, which can then join with the more stable oxygen molecules to form the three-atom molecule known as ozone. The arrangement of the three atoms in the molecule allows it to absorb ultraviolet light. About 600 million years ago, according to scientists, the ozone layer is thought to have formed, enabling organisms to leave the ocean and live on land.
There are many environmental issues facing Earth today. A large portion of the world is still plagued by air and water pollution; exotic plants, animals, and other organisms appear in regions of the world that lack natural barriers to them; and climate change continues to make headlines. It’s not always easy to find good environmental news, but scientists and environmentalists have noted one encouraging development: the world’s nations are banding together to fight the issue of ozone depletion.
The ozone layer that shields the planet is located in the stratosphere, 15 to 35 km [9 to 22 miles] above the surface. The loss of stratospheric ozone is concerning because the ozone layer effectively shields the majority of living things from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation and other types of radiation. The use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting chemicals has been reduced and eventually eliminated by international cooperation for 30 years (ODCs). Scientists were unable to determine whether these efforts were successful, though. Is the ozone layer really self-healing?
According to a new United Nations report, the Earth’s protective ozone layer is slowly but noticeably healing at a rate that would completely close the hole over Antarctica in 43 years.
More than 35 years after every country in the world agreed to stop producing chemicals that eat away at the layer of ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere that protects the planet from harmful radiation linked to skin cancer, cataracts, and crop damage, a once-every-four-years scientific assessment found recovery in progress. The ozone hole and the upper stratosphere are improving, according to Paul Newman, co-chair of the scientific assessment.
According to the report given Monday at the American Meteorological Society convention in Denver, the progress is slow. It will take until around 2040 for the average amount of ozone in the atmosphere to return to 1980 pre-thinning levels, according to the report. And the Arctic won’t return to normal until 2045.
It won’t be completely fixed in Antarctica, where the layer is so thin that a huge gaping hole forms every year, until 2066, according to the report. As a result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which outlawed a group of chemicals frequently found in refrigerants and aerosols, scientists and environmentalists around the world have long hailed efforts to close the ozone hole as one of humanity’s greatest ecological triumphs.
“Action on ozone creates a precedent for climate change. Our success in eliminating ozone-depleting substances demonstrates what must be done immediately to move away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases, and thus prevent a rise in global temperatures “Prof. Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, stated in a statement.
Four years ago, there were some reported healing signs, but they were more flimsy. “Those recovery numbers have really solidified,” Newman said. According to Newman, a chief Earth scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the two main chemicals that eat away at ozone are present in the atmosphere at lower concentrations. The amount of chlorine in the air has decreased by 11.5% since its peak in 1993, while the amount of bromine, which is more effective at consuming ozone but is present in lower concentrations, has decreased by 14.5% since its 1999 peak.
Ozone layer recovery is progressing as expected, preventing a 0.5°C increase in global warming.
As a result of the global phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals, efforts to slow down climate change are already benefiting from the ozone layer’s ability to recover within the next 40 years. This is the judgment of an UN-backed panel of experts, which was made public today at the 103rd annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society. The panel examines cutting-edge technologies like geoengineering for the first time and issues a warning about unintended consequences for the ozone layer.
On the path to recovery
The phase-out of nearly 99% of the prohibited ozone-depleting substances is confirmed in the quadrennial assessment report of the UN-backed Scientific Assessment Panel to the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.
Thus, the Montreal Protocol has been successful in protecting the ozone layer, resulting in a noticeable recovery of the ozone layer in the upper stratosphere and a reduction in the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that humans are exposed to.
If current policies are followed, it is anticipated that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels (before the ozone hole appeared) by 2066 over the Antarctic, 2045 over the Arctic, and 2040 for the rest of the world. Particularly between 2019 and 2021, changes in the Antarctic ozone hole’s size were largely caused by weather. But since 2000, the size and depth of the Antarctic ozone hole have been gradually increasing.
“The most recent quadrennial report indicates that the ozone recovery is on schedule. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Montreal Protocol for mitigating climate change. The Protocol has developed into a true environmental champion over the past 35 years, according to Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme. The Scientific Assessment Panel’s evaluations and assessments continue to be a crucial part of the Protocol’s work informing policy and decision-makers.
Consequences of climate change
The treaty’s beneficial effects on the climate are reiterated in the 10th edition of the Scientific Assessment Panel. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, a separate 2016 agreement, mandates a phase-down in the production and consumption of many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are potent climate change gases but do not directly affect ozone levels. According to the Scientific Assessment Panel, this modification is expected to prevent 0.3–0.5°C of warming by 2100. (this does not include contributions from HFC-23 emissions).
“Ozone action creates a model for tackling climate change. As the WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas stated, “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 thus limit temperature increase. A large international group of experts, including many from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and European Union, have compiled extensive studies, research, and data to come up with the most recent assessment.
The Scientific Assessment Panel examined the potential effects on ozone of stratospheric aerosol injection, or the deliberate addition of aerosols into the stratosphere, for the first time (SAI). The use of SAI has been suggested as a potential strategy to lessen global warming by increasing solar reflection. The panel does, however, issue a warning that SAI’s unintended effects “could also affect stratospheric temperatures, circulation, and ozone production and destruction rates and transport.”
Programs to protect the ozone layer
image via EnglishCentral
The Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement to protect the ozone layer of the Earth by gradually banning the chemicals that thin it. The historic agreement, one of the most effective international environmental agreements, came into effect in 1989. The ozone layer is recovering thanks to international cooperation, and numerous environmental and financial advantages have been attained.
By the middle of this century, the ozone layer is expected to recover with the full and ongoing implementation of the Montreal Protocol. Without this agreement,
ozone depletion would have multiplied by ten by the year 2050 compared to present levels, causing millions more cases of melanoma, other cancers, and cataracts in the eyes. For instance, it has been predicted that the Montreal Protocol will prevent skin cancer in two million people annually by the year 2030.
In comparison to 1990 levels, the Protocol’s Parties have eliminated 98% of ODS as of today. The majority of these substances are strong greenhouse gases, so the Montreal Protocol also makes a significant contribution to safeguarding the world’s climate system. The control measures outlined in the treaty are thought to have decreased greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 135 gigatons of CO2 between 1990 and 2010, or 11 gigatons per year.
A truly unprecedented contribution to climate mitigation efforts, and the single largest contribution the world has made to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, is anticipated from actions to limit the use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, which could prevent emissions of up to 105 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases and help prevent up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global temperature rise by 2100. Additionally, the Montreal Protocol significantly aids in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
SDGs and the Montreal Protocol
The Montreal Protocol is regarded as one of the most effective environmental agreements ever made in light of all of these aspects and more. The unprecedented results that the Protocol’s parties have achieved since 1987 continue to serve as an inspiration for what the best kind of international cooperation can accomplish.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
The most influential voice on the environment in the world is the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It offers leadership and promotes collaboration in protecting the environment by motivating, educating, and empowering countries and people to raise their standard of living without compromising that of the next generation.
Within the framework of the United Nations, environmental issues must be addressed through coordination by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). After the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in June 1972, its first director, Maurice Strong, founded it. With regard to a variety of issues, including climate change, the management of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and green economic development, its mandate is to provide leadership, deliver science, and develop solutions. Additionally, the group creates international environmental treaties, disseminates and promotes environmental science, and aids national governments in meeting environmental goals.
UNEP seeks to assist the world in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a member of the United Nations Development Group. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, the Convention on Migratory Species, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), among others, all have secretariats at UNEP.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988. (IPCC). The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol both have several implementing agencies, including UNEP.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
A special UN agency called the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is in charge of fostering global collaboration in the fields of atmospheric science, climatology, hydrology, and geophysics.
The International Meteorological Organization, a nongovernmental group established in 1873 as a forum for exchanging weather information and research, is where the WMO got its start. The World Meteorological Convention of 1947, which formally established the World Meteorological Organization, was the culmination of proposals to change the status and makeup of the IMO. The WMO started operations as an intergovernmental organization within the UN system the following year after the Convention came into force on March 23, 1950.
The 193-member-nation World Meteorological Organization (WMO) promotes the “free and unrestricted” exchange of data, information, and research between each member’s meteorological and hydrological institutions. Additionally, it works with nongovernmental organizations and other global organizations on issues pertaining to socioeconomic development, resource management, environmental protection, and climate change.
The World Meteorological Congress, which has its main office in Geneva, Switzerland, meets every four years to establish policies and priorities for the WMO. An Executive Council, currently headed by the President of Germany, Gerhard Adrian, governs the Congress.
With 193 Member States and Territories, WMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It is the UN system’s foremost authority on the condition and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as on how it interacts with the land and oceans, produces weather and climate, and affects how water resources are distributed.