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Thursday 23 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Getty Images/iStockphoto Ice melting at the antarctica, Image: Getty Images.
# Ozone Layer
Report confirming ozone layer is on track to fully recover hailed as 'fantastic news'
Scientists have said that success in ozone action must lead the way for climate action.

THE OZONE LAYER is on track to fully recover within four decades as vital repair efforts are proving successful, a report published today has revealed

The atmospheric layer which shields us from harmful solar radiation was depleted by the use of specific man-made industrial aerosols and other harmful chemicals, which countries agreed to phase out in 1987 through the Montreal Protocol. 

Previous to the global agreement, ozone-eating chemicals caused a continent sized hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme

The increased exposure to UVB radiation that ozone damage causes can lead to negative health impacts, including skin cancer and eye cataracts, as well as damage to crops, plants and micro-organisms, which in turn affects ecosystems. 

Scientists have said that the 99% decline in ozone-harming chemical emissions has enabled the ozone layer to slowly thicken, a development which is “benefiting efforts to mitigate climate change.” 

The report published by the Scientific Assessment Panel to the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances stated that the protocol has lead to a “notable recovery of the ozone layer in the upper stratosphere and decreased human exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun.” 

The ozone layer is now expected to recover to 1980 values – before the ozone hole appeared – over the Antarctic by 2066, over the Arctic by 2045, and by 2040 for the rest of the world. 

The report said meteorological changes have driven changes to the Antarctic ozone hole between 2019 and 2021, but despite these changes, the hole has “slowly been improving in area and depth since the year 2000.” 

Meg Seki, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat, has hailed the report as “fantastic news”. 

“The impact the Montreal Protocol has had on climate change mitigation cannot be overstressed. Over the last 35 years, the Protocol has become a true champion for the environment”, she said.

In 2016 the Kigali Agreement also came into effect, which requires countries to phase down the production and consumption of many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCS). HFCs do not directly deplete ozone, but are powerful climate change gases.

Professor Petteri Taalas, the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said that ozone action sets a “precedent for climate action.” 

“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. 

However, the report also issued a warning on the potentially perilous impact to the ozone of the intentional addition of aerosols into the stratosphere, which is a method that has been proposed to reduce climate warming in increasing sunlight reflection. 

The panel cautioned that this practice could have unintended consequences by affecting “stratospheric temperatures, circulation and ozone production and destruction rates and transport.” 

The latest assessments which confirm the progress that has been made in protecting the ozone have been based on a large amount of collaborative work and studies by international organisations and experts including many from the WMO, the United Nations Environment Programme, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Union.

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