Our healing ozone hole


Some rare good news about the state of our atmosphere was released this week – the ozone layer is beginning to recover.

The Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion – a report jointly produced every four years by the Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN – confirms the Montreal Protocol to ban CFCs and related ozone-depleting chemicals is working: atmospheric ozone levels are beginning to recover.

Although an ozone hole will still appear above Antarctica this spring, and every spring for decades to come, from now on the hole will, on average, only get smaller.

The ozone hole as of 7 September.
NASA

Australian scientists were the first to detect these hints of ozone recovery, back in 2011 – a story I covered for Nature News at the time. But the research narrowly missed the cut for inclusion in the previous UN-WMO report, published in 2010.

The ozone layer’s recovery is news we should celebrate – and remember how it was achieved. The way we halted CFC releases was not by outlawing fridges and aerosol cans, it was by investing in research to come up with alternative refrigerants and propellants that didn’t destroy ozone.

This week the news on climate change was dispiriting as ever, with the WMO also reporting a renewed surge in carbon emissions that saw greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere rising at their fastest rate in 30 years.

If the world ever needed a shining example of what can be achieved by facing up to a pressing environmental problem, and working together and investing in science to tackle it, surely it’s now.

Explore #ozone
  1. http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110516/full/news.2011.293.html
  2. https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_1002_en.html
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