Today we celebrate International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer – and yes we can celebrate because the ozone layer is healing. The day, besides the celebration, also gives us hope – in the power of faith, in the power of perseverance, and in the power of collective action. However, it did take time to ‘convince’ the world.
In 1973, two chemists Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina began studying the impacts of CFCs in the Earth’s atmosphere – they found the CFCs were damaging the stratosphere. The environmental consequence of this discovery was that, since stratospheric ozone absorbs most of the ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation reaching the surface of the planet, depletion of the ozone layer by CFCs would lead to an increase in UV-B radiation at the surface, resulting in an increase in skin cancer and other impacts such as damage to crops and to marine phytoplankton. Naturally, the plastic industry protested – they said there wasn’t enough scientific ‘evidence’.
In 1985, a hole in the Antarctic ozone layer was discovered. Nations came together to sign the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which regulated ozone-depleting compounds. Later amendments to the Montreal Protocol completely phased out production of CFCs. Meanwhile the plastic and aerosol industry continued their protests.
The treaty, “Montreal Protocol” has been labeled as the most successful environmental treaty till this day for its effective result in decreasing the ozone depletion. Thus the theme for this year is “32 years and healing.”
The size of annual ‘Antarctic Ozone hole’ discovered in the late twentieth century has been found to be decreasing progressively since 1990 as a result of collective efforts. Scientists say that it will take more 30 or 40 years to shrink the size it was in 1980.
You see how CFC almost killed us all? Thankfully, we took the right measures on time. Do you see where we are going with this?