What is the Ozone Layer?
Ozone is a component present in our stratosphere that acts as a shield to protect humans and life on earth from harmful ultraviolet light coming from the sun. This ozone is spread over the earth in the form of a thin layer absorbing all UV rays.
However, ozone is also a component of smog that is formed in the troposphere. So, in order to avoid confusion of facts, one must remember that the ozone layer present in the stratosphere is beneficial for us whereas the ozone present in the troposphere acts as a harmful pollutant.
Ozone Layer Depletion:
This refers to the diminishing or thinning of the protective ozone layer in the stratosphere due to human activities like fossil fuel burning that has lead to the greenhouse gas emissions and human-driven climate change. Some areas of the ozone layer have thinned so much that it has lead to the formation of ‘Ozone Holes‘ in the Earth’s atmosphere was formed because of these pollutants.
Now, these holes are not actually holes but rather a region in the ozone layer where the depletion is occurring especially fast. The main reason of ozone layer depletion was due to the use of CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigerators. The first and biggest Ozone hole was reported to be discovered in May 1985, over the Antarctic region.
Why is the Ozone layer and its depletion so concerning for the environment?
The ozone layer as mentioned above, is a protective layer shielding life on earth from harmful UV rays coming from the sun. Without this ozone layer, humans and animals would suffer skin diseases and illnesses particularly skin cancer. Plant life will also be affected as too much of sun’s radiation is detrimental to the development and physiological function of the plant which will ultimately affect photosynthesis and also affect humans and the entire food web of the ecosystem will collapse. Thus, the presence of ozone layer is very crucial to our survival as they go hand in hand with each other.
Also check out: Ozone Depletion- Causes, Effects and Solutions
Recovery of the Ozone layer!
After the causes of the ozone depletion were determined and taken under serious consideration during the industrial era, a number of treaties, conventions and protocols were created and signed in order to attempt to fix the ozone layer. This proved to be a success as seen by the implementation of Montreal Protocol that has resulted in reports confirming news of the Ozone layer slowly healing itself.
Montreal Protocol – This protocol was created at a meeting of the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) just 2 years after the discovery of the ozone hole in 1987. It was a treaty agreed upon by countries globally to protect the ozone layer by eliminating and decreasing the use and production of ozone depleting chemicals (OD substances) used particularly in the compressor and cooling systems of the fridge and freezers, like CFCs, Carbon tetrachloride, Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), Hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs), Freon gas and halons to name a few.
You may also want to read: Environmental Impacts of Ozone Depletion due to CFCs
These substances were banned and alternatives like Tetrafluoroethane or Norflurane are commonly used now and they are not harmful for the ozone layer.
Thus, this swift action in policy making along with immediate action of stopping the use of these refrigerants had greatly helped the recovery of the ozone layer and as a result, it was reported in 2000 that the ozone layer has slowly started to heal itself and that it would return to 1980 levels (which is before the appearance and detection of ozone hole in the layer) by 2040. Additionally, the UN also reported that the largest hole in the polar region is also starting to heal and could return to normal levels by 2066.
Now, as we rejoice at the recovery of the ozone layer; we must not forget that there are other even greater and serious challenges looming overhead that need immediate attention as well as swift action. However, the healing of the ozone layer is proof enough that every problem has a solution and that no problem is unsolvable. If humans come together, we can achieve unimaginable feats. Nothing is or will ever be impossible if we unite for a cause and fight against it.
Now a days we need to solve more than just one issue- we have plastic pollution, climate change, species extinction… all driven by global warming and GHG emissions. Thus, what we need is sustainability, strong policies and their thorough implementation by all until this global crisis is averted and we can once again, make our planet healthy and habitable for all.
You may also want to read: How much time Earth has before Climate Change destroys it?
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An Environmental Science major interested in creating awareness about all things related to the environment and how we can protect it.