According to a recent report from a United Nations-backed panel of experts, the Earth’s protective ozone layer is showing signs of significant recovery and is expected to fully recover within four decades. The hole in the ozone layer, first noticed in the 1980s, was caused by the use of certain chemicals that deplete the ozone. However, following the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which banned the production and consumption of these chemicals, the ozone layer has been slowly recovering.
The findings of the scientific assessment, which is published every four years, reaffirms the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol in mitigating damage to the ozone layer. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which is linked to skin cancer, eye cataracts, compromised immune systems and agricultural land damage.
According to the report, if current policies remain in place, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 levels, before the appearance of the ozone hole, by 2040. Additionally, the report states that the ozone layer will return to normal levels in the Arctic by 2045 and in Antarctica by 2066. This is a significant achievement as it shows that international cooperation and regulations can effectively address environmental issues.
Scientists and environmental groups have long lauded the global ban of ozone-depleting chemicals as one of the most critical environmental achievements to date. It could set a precedent for broader regulation of climate-warming emissions. “Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done — as a matter of urgency — to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.”
The report also highlighted that global emissions of the banned chemical chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC-11), which was used as a refrigerant and in insulating foams, have declined since 2018 after increasing unexpectedly for several years. A large portion of the unexpected CFC-11 emissions originated from eastern China, the report said.
The report also found that the ozone-depleting chemical chlorine declined 11.5% in the stratosphere since it peaked in 1993, while bromine declined 14.5% since it peaked in 1999.
However, it’s important to note that the recovery of the ozone layer is not without challenges and potential risks. Scientists also warned that efforts to artificially cool the Earth by injecting aerosols into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight could thin the ozone layer, and cautioned that further research into emerging technologies like geoengineering is necessary.
The report was a collaboration of researchers from the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Environment Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the European Commission. These findings demonstrate the importance of continued international cooperation and regulations to protect the Earth’s ozone layer and serve as a reminder of the potential positive impact of addressing environmental issues.