The hole in our ozone layer over Antarctica caused major concern for the future of our planet when it was first discovered in 1984. This discovery lead to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a treaty signed by almost every nation that focused on eliminating the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) chemicals in an attempt to save the planet’s protective layer.
Today, over three decades after the discovery of the shrinking ozone layer, we are seeing improvements to the ozone layer proving the success of the treaty. Although these improvements are minimal considering the 1.5 million square miles of ozone that shrunk between 2000 and 2015, the hopes of saving our planet are looking more like possibilities.
Environmentalists and scientists from around the world were majorly concerned with the effects that the shrinking ozone could have on our planet. The ozone layer, high in the stratosphere, protects Earth’s life from absorbing the Sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. With the depletion of ozone, mostly caused by the release of CFCs and other chemicals from refrigerants and propellants, the UV radiation was predicted to cause major health issues to humans. Skin cancer, cataracts, and eye damage were just some of the health concerns.
NASA analyzed the situation in 2009 and simulated the result of a continuously shrinking ozone layer had the Montreal Protocol not been signed. Their simulation showed that by mid-century, the ozone layer would be completely depleted from Earth, and at noon on a summer day the UV index would be so damaging that visible sunburn could be seen on skin within just 10 minutes.
Thankfully, this is no longer a concern. Improvements to the ozone layer are just one example of the success from society’s joint efforts and mutual concerns to directly target an issue. The Montreal Protocol’s accomplishments should engage society to take a harder look at how the issue of Global Warming can best be solved. While the shrinking ozone layer triggered a ban to the use of CFCs, the focus for Global Warming needs to be on the release of carbon into the atmosphere from coal, gas, and oil burning. This shows the success of collective efforts and treaties like the Montreal Protocol to generate change and give us all hope of living in a cleaner and healthier planet.
Source: “Ozone Hole Shows Signs of Shrinking, Scientists Say.” Henry Fountain. NY Times. June 30, 2016.
Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
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Christopher J. Gervais, F.R.G.S.
Founder & CEO
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