The Planet

Breathe easy, because the hole in the ozone is nearly fully healed.

by Heidi Lux

December 23, 2018

The hole in the ozone layer was at best a reason to not use hairspray, and at worst an indicator of a grizzly future in which all human life is roasted by an angry sun.

But a new study released by the United Nations states that the hole in the ozone could be a thing of the past. The 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion found that the ozone layer is on the road to recovery, thanks to efforts to repair the damage. It’s now a real possibility that the hole in the ozone could be fully healed within our lifetimes. The report projects that the damage could be reversed by the 2060s, and, in some parts of the world, by 2030.

“For the first time, there are emerging indications that the Antarctic ozone hole has diminished in size and depth since the year 2000,” states the report. “The weight of evidence suggests that the decline in ODS made a substantial contribution to the observed trends.” The hole over Antarctica was first discovered in 1985. The ozone layer over Antarctica is exceptionally thin, and has been gradually shrinking since the early 2000s. In 2018, the hole over Antarctica was nearly 9 million square miles, or, to put it in perspective, an area just smaller than North America.

In the mid-1970s, scientists began to be aware that man-made gasses from chemicals released from aerosol cans, air conditioners, dry-cleaning chemicals, and refrigerators were escaping into the upper atmosphere and wreaking havoc on the ozone layer. These ozone-depleting chemicals are called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and were pinpointed as the main culprit in the thinning ozone.

In 1987, 46 countries agreed to the Montreal Protocol, which served as an effort to curb the damage on Earth’s delicate atmosphere by globally banning CFCs. According to the recent UN report, “Actions taken under the Montreal Protocol have led to decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and the start of the recovery of the stratospheric ozone.” If the Montreal Protocol had not been enacted, the ozone layer could have been completely destroyed by 2065, nearly the same year it is now projected to fully heal.

The Kigali Amendment was added to the Montreal Protocol in 2016 as a further effort to reduce manmade damage to the environment. The amendment will go into place in 2019 and covers chemicals that replaced chemicals the Montreal Protocol banned. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used to replace CFCs, and while they do not hurt the ozone layer, they do have greenhouse gas properties much stronger than carbon dioxide. The Kigali Amendment could prevent a global surface temperature increase of 0.2 to 0.4 degree Celsius – a little that goes along way. 

While we still have more work to do in fully rectifying the damage we’ve done to the planet we live on, at least it seems like we’re heading in the right direction.

 

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Breathe easy, because the hole in the ozone is nearly fully healed.