Earth's ozone layer finally healing

Earth's ozone layer finally healing

The Protocol was in response to the revelation that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances - used in aerosols, cooling and refrigeration systems, and many other items - were tearing a hole in the ozone layer and allowing unsafe ultraviolet radiation to flood through.

'The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing to occur every year.

It said the Antarctic ozone hole is expected to gradually close, returning to 1980 levels in the 2060s.

According to a United Nations report, the upper layer of ozone over the northern hemisphere will be repaired by 2030, and the damage over the southern hemisphere will be back to normal by the middle of the century.

"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".

"It's really good news", said report co-chairman Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10 percent of the upper ozone layer was depleted, said Newman. "If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects".

In the 1970s, it was recognised that chemicals called CFCs, used for example in refrigeration and aerosols, were destroying ozone in the stratosphere.

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

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The report also said it was the first time the hole in the ozone layer had shrunk in both size and depth and size since 2000.

In the stratosphere, roughly seven to 25 miles above Earth's surface, the ozone layer acts like sunscreen, shielding the planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.

The University of Colorado's Brian Toon, who wasn't part of the report, said the success doesn't mean the fight to save the ozone layer is over just yet.

"We are only at a point where recovery may have started", Toon said, pointing to some ozone measurements that haven't increased yet.

However, while most of the banned damaging gases have been phased out, the study found at least one violation - having spotting that production and emission of CFC-11 unexpected increased in eastern Asia since 2012.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said: "Over the last three decades, the Montreal protocol has fulfilled its original objective to heal the ozone layer".

Scientists don't know how much a healed ozone hole will further warm Antarctica, but they do know the immediate effects of ozone depletion on the world and human health, so "it would be incredibly irresponsible not to do this", Salawitch said.

The Protocol is set to be strengthened in 2019 with the ratification of the Kigali Amendment which calls for the future use of powerful climate-warming gases in refrigerators, air conditioners and related products to be slashed.

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

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