Earth's protective ozone layer is finally healing

Katie Ramirez
November 9, 2018

This combination of images made available by NASA shows areas of low ozone above Antarctica on September 2000, left, and September 2018 GENEVA: The ozone layer that shields life from cancer-causing solar rays is recovering at a rate of one to three percent per decade, reversing years of risky depletion caused by the release of harmful chemicals, a United Nations study said on Monday.

The measures taken to fix the damage will also have an important beneficial effect on climate change, as some of the gases that caused the ozone layer to thin and in places disappear also contribute to warming the atmosphere.

But in 1987, countries around the world agreed in the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFCs and businesses came up with replacements.

Ozone is a layer that protects life on Earth from harmful layers of ultraviolet rays from the sun. This global treaty came into being over 30 years ago in response to the scientific discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances - used in aerosol spray cans, cooling and refrigeration systems - were tearing a hole in the ozone layer, allowing the Sun's ultraviolet radiation to flood through.

Paul Newman of Nasa, joint chairman of...

At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10% of the upper ozone layer was depleted, Mr Newman said.

But the United Nations has today said it is finally healing, with the Northern Hemisphere's upper ozone layer expected to be repaired in the 2030s. Scientists raised the alarm and ozone-depleting chemicals were phased out worldwide.

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'If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects.

But the report, from the UN's environment and world meteorological organisation, said there is evidence of an unexpected increase in CFC-11 from eastern Asia since 2012.

This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at almost 9.6 million square miles (24.8 million square kilometers).

The UN had already hailed the success of the Protocol but the report said it was the first time that there were emerging indications that the Antarctic ozone hole had diminished in size and depth since 2000.

"As a result of the Montreal Protocol much more severe ozone depletion in the polar regions has been avoided", the report said. And the Montreal Protocol is set to be enhanced in early 2019 with the ratification of the Kigali Amendment, which seeks to curb future climate change by targeting powerful greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

"I don't think we can do a victory lap until 2060", Newman told AP.

So a healed ozone layer will worsen man-made climate change there a bit, Newman said.

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