The ozone layer is slowly but surely recovering and could recover within a few decades. This is the conclusion presented by a United Nations panel of experts at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society. Researchers assess damage to the ozone layer every four years.
If recovery continues at the current rate, the protective layer around the Earth is expected to return to 1980 values by 2040, with the exception of the Arctic and Antarctica. The ozone layer over the Arctic will be restored by 2045. Over Antarctica – where the layer is so thin that it has a hole – the layer is expected to recover in 2066.
The hole in the ozone layer has long been the most well-known and most pressing environmental problem for many people. This layer, located high in the atmosphere, protects the Earth and life on the planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Without the ozone layer, life would not be possible on Earth.
In the 1970s and 1980s, scientists found that chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were seriously depleting the ozone layer. Researchers have come to the disturbing conclusion that the protective layer would have virtually disappeared around 2050 if there had been no policy to save the ozone layer.
This policy was introduced in 1987, when the two countries signed the Montreal Protocol together. In it, a large number of countries agreed in the context of the United Nations to ban the production and use of CFCs. Until then, they were used in refrigerators, spray cans, and air conditioners, among other things. The policy was a success: the protocol came into effect in 1989 and today 99 percent of these chemicals are no longer used.
Connecting policies to save the ozone layer with policies to combat climate change, Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), “Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action.” “The success we have had in phasing out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer shows what needs to be done to move away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and thus combat climate change.”
emissions in China
Although taking action against ozone depletion is generally considered by experts to be one of the most successful examples of international environmental policy, things have not gone so well since 1989. In 2018, it was found that there was an increased amount of CFCs emitted in previous years. .
It turns out that these emissions come from China. After the intervention of the Chinese government, global emissions fell again in the following years. According to scientists, this latest CFC leak is likely to delay recovery of the ozone layer by about a year.
In 2016, the Montreal Protocol was expanded to ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which deplete less of the ozone layer but are powerful greenhouse gases — about 15,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By also banning these substances, global warming would be limited to about 0.3 to 0.5 degrees, according to the American Meteorological Society report.