Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Ozone: The Earth's protective shield is repairing

The banning of CFCs has helped to repair the ozone hole above Antarctica Image The banning of CFCs has helped to repair the ozone hole above Antarctica
Sandy Nunez | 08 November, 2018, 06:35

Image copyright Antartica What does the ozone layer do?

As a result, the upper ozone layer above the Northern Hemisphere should be completely repaired in the 2030s and the gaping Antarctic ozone hole should disappear in the 2060s, according to a scientific assessment released Monday at a conference in Quito, Ecuador. The worldwide agreement compelled the global community to begin the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons.

Ozone is a colourless combination of three oxygen atoms kilometres above Earth's surface, it shields us from ultraviolet rays which cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems. Recent reports have found that emissions of a banned CFC are increasing in China - something the Chinese government has vowed to crack down on.

In 2019, the Montreal Protocol's strength will continue with the signing of the Kigali Amendment, an agreement that will ban the future use of climate-warming gases in air conditioners, refrigerators, and other consumer products.

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

"Evidence presented by the authors shows that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 percent per decade since 2000", UN Environment and the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement.

The Montreal Protocol helped phase out ozone depleting chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons - known as CFCs - which were used widely in the production of fridges and spray cans until it transpired that they contributed to the breakdown of the ozone layer.

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This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at almost 9.6 million square miles (24.8 million square kilometers). Writers of the report said if this amendment is ratified, Earth can avoid up to 0.4 percent of global warming in the 21st century.

The ozone layer starts at about 6 miles (10 kilometers) above Earth and stretches for almost 25 miles (40 kilometers); ozone is a colorless combination of three oxygen atoms.

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

Scientists have also noted that the recovery of the ozone layer above Antarctica could slightly worsen the impacts of climate change in that region as the hole in the protective layer there has shielded the area from the full impacts of global warming.

This healing progress is attributed to worldwide initiatives under the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement that was formed more than 30 years ago in response to climate change concerns.

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

Still, the United Nations said they were heartened by their findings about the ozone layer ― and what its recovery could mean for future climate action.