The damaged ozone layer will recover within four decades

When it comes to Earth’s atmosphere and environment, bad news has been raining lately. But today there are other voices. After all, things are going in the right direction with a very damaged ozone layer!

That scientists write, collected in Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in New report. In their report, they assert that approximately 99 percent of the ozone-destroying substances banned in 1989 have been phased out and that the ozone layer is recovering in response. And judging by the rate at which the ozone layer is currently recovering, we should expect it to fully recover over Antarctica (where the ozone layer takes the biggest beating) by 2066. Over the Arctic, the ozone layer is expected to return to normal around 2045. Above the rest of the world, this could be the case as early as 2040.

UV
It’s good news. Not just for the ozone layer. But certainly for us humans. Because the ozone layer protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. And their deterioration means that more of that harmful UV radiation can reach Earth’s surface (and us). Researchers have confirmed that as the ozone layer recovers, our exposure to this radiation will decrease.

climate
Plus, saving the ozone layer has a very nice side effect; For example, bans on ozone-depleting substances – such as CFCs – have a very beneficial effect on our climate. For example, researchers recently stated that measures are aimed at saving the ozone layer, us Protection in transit from an additional 2.5°C overheating in the year 2100. This is partly because ozone-destroying substances – such as CFCs – are also highly potent greenhouse gases. In addition, ozone-destroying substances – if not restricted – would have destroyed the ozone layer much more, so that plants and trees would be affected by harmful UV rays to the point that they would absorb much less carbon dioxide and so more carbon dioxide would remain in atmosphere, causing the Earth to warm faster.

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Solution
Thus, restoring the ozone layer saves us from a lot of misery. But none of that happened on its own. Damage to the ozone layer is human-caused and therefore had to be resolved by humans (see box). And mankind has dealt with that very well (if we do say so ourselves).

Ozone layer problems came to light in 1985. Then researchers discovered the infamous “hole in the ozone layer” over Antarctica. You should not imagine a real “hole”, but a continuous thinning of the ozone layer. The concentration of ozone over the South Pole fluctuates naturally: at the end of the Antarctic summer—when the sun reappears—the ozone layer weakens until September, before recovering again. But in 1985, researchers found that in addition to this seasonal trend, there was another worrisome trend: The ozone layer had been thinner each spring since the 1970s than it had been in the previous spring. And the man is the culprit: We’ve pumped ozone-destroying substances into the air. For the ozone layer to heal, we had to stop doing it. And just two years after the hole in the ozone layer was discovered, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was created for this purpose. Governments around the world have signed this protocol, pledging to phase out production of substances that deplete the ozone layer. Governments put their money where their mouths are and since 2000 it has become clear that they have already led to the restoration of the ozone layer.

And now we are heading towards a complete recovery of the ozone layer. This means that the ozone layer – if we continue down this path – will eventually reach the same concentration as it was in 1980, or before the formation of the “hole in the ozone layer”.

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Modification
So it’s all thanks to the Montreal Protocol, which was expanded a bit in 2016. That year, governments agreed to phase out the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Since the 1980s, these HFCs have been increasingly used as alternatives to ozone-depleting substances (which had to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol). It does not affect the ozone layer, but it contributes to global warming. It was therefore decided in 2016 to phase out these HFCs by amending the Montreal Protocol. The implications of this are significant, the researchers say in their new report. For example, phasing out HFCs by 2100 is expected to prevent an additional 0.3 to 0.5°C of warming.

We can do it
It shows that humanity – if there is the will and willingness to put their shoulders to the wheel – can really make agreements at the international level to solve a global problem. And that gives a little hope to that other global problem that urgently needs a solution: the rapid warming of our planet. Because if we can agree at the international level to ban certain chemicals, shouldn’t it also be possible to phase out the use of fossil fuels and thus reduce our emissions and limit global warming?

The Montreal Protocol teaches us that a lot is possible. But it takes perseverance. For example, it is very important that governments – even now that the recovery of the ozone layer is in full swing – persist in ignoring and reluctance to use ozone destroyers that have been phased out. Ozone destroyers not included in the Montreal Protocol included.

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Geological engineering
In addition, the researchers in their new report also argue for some restraint when it comes to geoengineering, and in particular the intentional injection of aerosols into the stratosphere. This approach is sometimes proposed to slow global warming; The aerosols will reflect more sunlight, cooling the Earth’s surface. But the team’s research shows that this approach may also have harmful effects on the ozone layer by affecting the rate of production and destruction of ozone, which is also present in the stratosphere.

So we’re not there yet. The ozone layer will take several decades to recover. Until then, caution is advised. But that doesn’t detract from today’s good news. Because the ozone layer is really good again after being so damaged.

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