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Our Efforts to Heal the Ozone Layer Are Finally Paying Off

We're slowly but steadily repairing the damage we caused.

Kristin HouserNovember 6th 2018

Good News, Everyone

It seems like every recent study on the environment has had the same takeaway: We’re heading toward a climate catastrophe.

A newly released report backed by the United Nations bucks that trend with some very positive news. It seems our global efforts to repair the ozone layer are actually paying off — and even better, future efforts already in the works have the potential to help us address global warming.

How’s that for a breath of fresh, non-toxic air?

In the Zone

Every four years, an international team of researchers releases a report focused on the state of Earth’s stratospheric ozone, a naturally occurring gas that shields the planet from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Unfortunately, our actions on Earth have had a detrimental effect on the ozone layer. For decades, we pumped chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the air, and these depleted the ozone layer, leaving us vulnerable to that harmful UV radiation.

In 1987, the world decided to take action against this damage to the ozone layer through the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty focused primarily on the phasing out of CFCs. As of 2010, the harmful chemicals were completely banned.

Based on this newly released report, those efforts have paid off.

Ozone in certain parts of the stratosphere has increased by 1 to 3 percent every decade since 2000. Based on current projections, the ozone layer above the Northern Hemisphere will be completely healed by the 2030s, with the Southern Hemisphere following in the 2050s and the polar regions by 2060.

Building Momentum

Though the findings of this new report are promising, we are far from any sort of “mission accomplished” moment when it comes to the ozone.

We already know that not everyone is abiding by the CFC ban — looking at you, China — so we’ll need to figure out a way to address that issue.

We’re also just months away from the implementation of the Kigali Amendment, an update to the Montreal Protocol that will guide the phasing out of another type of harmful chemical, hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). This amendment has the potential to not only build on the ozone-repair efforts already in place, but also help us avoid up to 0.4 percent of global warming this century, so we’ll need to ensure the world is as committed to phasing out HFCs as it has been CFCs.

If we can do that, who knows? Maybe environmental reports containing positive news could become the norm.

READ MORE: Healing of Ozone Layer Gives Hope for Climate Action: UN Report [UN News]

More on CFCs: Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

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