Earth’s protective ozone layer is slowly healing with scientists forecasting it to be completely cured within two decades.
The ozone layer is on track to recover within four decades.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 10, 2023
This is an encouraging example of what the world can achieve when we work together for the sake of our planet & its people. https://t.co/Ee6b3JFP5e
1. UN report
Despite the progress being slow, the report presented last week at the American Meteorological Society convention in Denver, reveals that the global average amount of ozone (30km high) in the atmosphere will be back to 1980 pre-thinning levels around 2040. The poles will take a little longer — the ozone layer will fully bounce back by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2066 over the Antarctic.
“In the upper stratosphere and in the ozone hole, we see things getting better,” said Paul Newman, a NASA official and co-chairman of the scientific assessment.
The report was developed by the UN Environment programme, NASA, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Commission.
2. Montreal protocol
In the 1980s, alarm over the loss of ozone led to the implementation of the Montreal protocol, which took place in 1989. In essence, this protocol represents an international agreement that has helped eliminate 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were used as solvents and refrigerants.
Good news about our environment!— United Nations (@UN) January 14, 2023
The Montreal Protocol has succeeded in safeguarding the ozone layer.
The phase out of nearly 99% of banned ozone-depleting substances has the ozone layer on track to recovery within four decades.
More from @UNEP. ⬇️https://t.co/N3enZYGBQi
“Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the WMO, which unveiled the progress report last Monday, a work conducted every four years. “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,” he added.
David Fahey, a scientist at NOAA who is a lead author of the new assessment, described the unified global response to dealing with CFCs as part of the Montreal “the most successful environmental treaty in history and offers encouragement that countries of the world can come together and decide an outcome and act on it”.
Fahey said that even with immediate global action on CFCs, the chemicals still linger in the atmosphere for about a century.
It’s a bit like waiting for paint to dry, you just have to wait for nature to do its thing and flush out these chemicals.David Fahey, a scientist at NOAA
Still, the path to progress faced some up and downs and CFS were eventually replaced with another group of industrial chemicals — hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These were problematic since HFCs are greenhouse gases, which have also required an international agreement to curb their use. A legally binding agreement was struck in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2016, the Kigali Amendment, which seeks to gradually reduce the consumption and production of HFCs.
4. Solar geoengineering
The latest UN progress report is the first to take into account the potential impact upon the ozone layer of solar geoengineering, a controversial climate proposal where reflective particles, such as sulphur, are heavily sprayed into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and therefore reduce global heating.
While geoengineering supporters often say it is in the interest of the disadvantaged Global South, the Global South isn’t buying it. In fact, most groups in the global climate movement reject solar geoengineering entirely.Lili Fuhr, Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law
Openly opposed to the concept of solar geoengineering, Fuhr noted the priority should be focused on accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels and “leave the science fiction on the shelf.” The controversial practice could have “unintended consequences, including effects on ozone”, the report finds, although it acknowledges “many knowledge gaps and uncertainties prevent a more robust evaluation at this time”.