U.N. says Earth's ozone layer is healing from damage

Federico Mansilla
Noviembre 8, 2018

The false-color view of the monthly-averaged total ozone over the Antarctic pole on November 3, 2018.

The purple and blue colors show where there is the least ozone, and the yellows and reds are where there is more ozone.

The hole in the Earth's ozone layer is expected to fully heal within 50 years, climate change experts predict in a new United Nations report.

At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10% of the upper ozone layer was depleted, Mr Newman said.

Referring to projected rates, the report says the northern hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is "scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s followed by the southern hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060". Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment Programme, said, "The careful mix of authoritative science and collaborative action that has defined the Protocol for more than 30 years and was set to heal our ozone layer is precisely why the Kigali Amendment holds such promise for climate action in future".

The scientific assessment, released at a conference in Ecuador today, was described as "really good news" by Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center. Unseen, a layer of ozone encircles Earth's stratosphere protecting us from most of the harmful effects of ultraviolet light from the sun.

It is a colourless form of a specific type of oxygen molecule that protects Earth from ultraviolet rays that can cause skin cancer, eye problems and crop damage. Use of man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which release chlorine and bromine, began eating away at the ozone.

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An worldwide agreement called the Montreal Protocol made sure that businesses came up with replacements for these damaging products.

This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at almost 9.6 million square miles - which is still about 16% smaller than the biggest hole recorded. That's about 16 percent smaller than the biggest hole recorded - 11.4 million square miles (29.6 million square kilometers) in 2006.

If nothing had been done to stop the thinning, the world would have destroyed two-thirds of its ozone layer by 2065, Newman said.

It's not a complete success yet, according to the University of Colorado's Brian Toon, who was not part of the report.

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.

The Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol, coming into effect at the start of next year, will help reduce future climate change, by targeting HFC gases, mostly used in refrigeration, which have a warming effect tens of thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

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