It's common knowledge that we, as humans, have made some remarkable progress in all fields of life and even beyond as we know it. We are, however, the same beings who have caused immense damage as well to the very planet we live on. But it is not too late for us, and here's why.
As kids, we were all taught about the Ozone Layer, the shield in the earth’s stratosphere that shields us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Had it not been for the ozone layer, we would all be toast within a matter of months!
Around forty years ago, our scientists realised that our activities here on earth had created a hole in this shield, effectively depleting it.
We faced the consequences of this in the form of global warming, now known as climate change. The increased number of hurricanes, the increase in the heat making the glaciers melt, which then increases the sea level and the increased sea level causing stronger and frequent floods – these are all the ripple effects of global warming.
Some good news regarding the Ozone Layer
For years, environmental activists have been urging people to help repair the damages we have caused by all sorts of pollution, ranging from air to soil exploitation. Thanks to the combined efforts, children and the older generations are now asking why – why has no one done anything active for so long about reducing climate change? In this wake, there is some hope.
The 24.8 million square kilometres of the hole formed in the Ozone layer over the Antarctic is now closed!
But, what is so special about this one hole? Well, it was the longest-lasting, the most enormous and unending hole to ever appear on the ozone layer since this layer’s monitoring started 40 years ago. And we have now successfully repaired it.
Also, there are stations in the Antarctic for studying climate change and how it affects us, so scientists are hopeful that we can preserve the entire ozone layer with the right steps.
How do Holes get created in the Ozone Layer?
The culprit for the depletion of the Ozone layer is trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11). As if the name wasn’t toxic enough, CFC-11was banned by the Montreal Protocol in 2010. The Montreal Protocol is an intercontinental treaty devised to protect the ozone layer.
CFC-11 is so harmful that it causes chemical reactions that break down the ultraviolet absorbing ozone molecules which form the ozone layer. The average CFC-11 emissions from 2008 to 2012 were around 0.4 nanograms per squared per second.
This, however, increased in mere three years from 2014 to 2017 and measured around 1.0 nanograms per meter squared per second. This was due to the increased emission of CFC-11 into the atmosphere from various factories, constructions etc.
CFC-11 is used for making insulating foam for buildings and household appliances. Even after the production of CFC-11 was banned way back in 2010 by the Montreal Protocol, eastern China still continued its illegal production.
Sunyoung Park, a geochemist at Kyungpook National University, South Korea, analysed the CFC-11 emission and found that in 2014-2017 the CFC-11 emission from Hateruma, Japan and Gosan, South Korea was around 10,000 metric tons and came down to 5,000 metric tons in 2019. They did something right, didn’t they?
What is the Montreal Protocol?
Montreal Protocol, known as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, is an international treaty for protecting the Ozone layer. This protocol bans the production of substances that prove to be responsible for ozone depletion. It was signed in Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer on 26th August 1987.
A total of 196 nations and the European Union entered into this treaty, and it became one of the most successful international treaties. The protocol is funded by the United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Development Program, United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the World Bank.
What’s remarkable about this protocol is that chlorofluorocarbons’ concentration and related chlorinated hydrocarbons present in the atmosphere have decreased since nations came together to combat global warming.
The Annual Arctic Ozone Hole
The hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic has been there for almost four decades. In Southern Hemisphere’s spring season, from August to October, the ozone hole in the Arctic enlarges and reaches the maximum around mid-September and October. When spring ends, the stratosphere’s temperature rises and causes the ozone depletion to slow down and return to normal.
This, however, didn’t happen in 2020, and the cause for this was the powerful ‘polar vortex’. The winds kept the stratosphere cold, and as a result, the ozone hole did not close. The ozone layer’s depth reached as low as 94 Dobson Units (a unit of measurement), which is almost one-third more than its average value.
The European Space Agency released a statement where they said that the polar vortex created a circular cage of cold air that led to high-altitude clouds in the region. The clouds mixed with human-made pollutants like chlorine and bromine ate away at the surrounding ozone gas until a massive hole roughly three times the Greenland size opened up in the atmosphere.
The World Meteorological Organization, back in 2018, found that the southern ozone hole was diminishing by 1% to 3% per decade since 2000. Therefore, scientists say that the earth’s stratosphere won’t completely heal from the damage we have caused for at least 50 more years, but the ozone layer is on track to being closed.
It is high time to make this change that Greta Thunberg talked about in her speech at the United Nations Climate Conference, Katowice, in 2018.
We need to come together and undo all the harm ‘we’ have caused to earth. It is the only way future ages can witness the marvel of this earth and its entities.