It has taken some three decades and concerted global action, but at last the ozone layer is beginning to heal.
It has taken some three decades and concerted global action, but at last the ozone layer is beginning to heal. Cue drum roll.
Once thinned dangerously by aerosol chemicals, the planet’s protective layer of ozone gas has been recovering at a rate of between 1% and 3% each decade since 2000, the United Nations notes. At this rate of recovery, the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere will have healed completely by the 2030s, according to the UN. Over the Southern Hemisphere, meanwhile, the layer’s recovery will take until 2050 and in the polar regions until 2060.
Back in the 1980s scientists and environmentalists worldwide were becoming increasingly concerned over an increasingly large hole in the ozone layer, which protects the biosphere below from destructive ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. The cause was ozone-depleting chemicals contained in aerosols used in deodorants, dry cleaners and refrigerators.
Following the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, however, these chemicals were phased out globally. “The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history for a reason,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said in a statement. “The careful mix of authoritative science and collaborative action that has defined the Protocol for more than 30 years and was set to heal our ozone layer is precisely why the Kigali Amendment holds such promise for climate action in future.”
A scientific study published in the journal Science confirmed the increasing health of the ozone layer already in 2016 so the findings of the UN’s panel of climate experts does not come as a surprise. Yet it’s a timely reminder just the same.
“We can now be confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal,” Susan Solomon, a professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT who was a lead author of a study, said in 2016. “Which is pretty good for us, isn’t it? Aren’t we amazing humans, that we did something that created a situation that we decided collectively, as a world, ‘Let’s get rid of these molecules’? We got rid of them, and now we’re seeing the planet respond,” she added.
It’s pretty good yes. What we need is far more of such concentrated collective action to try and fix the myriad other ills that ail our planet: climate change, overfishing, extensive deforestation, air and water pollution, wildlife habitat loss. Our success in helping fix the rapid depletion of ozone in the atmosphere should give us hope that we can achieve similar environmental successes in future. When there’s a will, there’s a way, as the saying goes.