UN says earth's ozone layer is healing

Ozone layer hole will ‘totally heal within 50 years’	 	 	 			Getty Images

Ozone layer hole will ‘totally heal within 50 years’ Getty Images

The latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion report from the United Nations shows that action taken under the Montreal Protocol is working and has resulted in long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances (ODSs).

Thanks to these bans, the ozone layer has been able to recover at a small but mighty rate of three percent per decade, meaning it may be repaired by the time we reach the 2060s.

The layer of gas acts as a shield by absorbing the sun's ultraviolet rays, which cause skin cancer and damage vegetation. "Most potential is in increasing the energy efficiency of these appliances as 80% of the emissions are due to the use of electricity and 20% due to the release of the refrigerants", said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, described the discovery as "really good news". The Southern Hemisphere lags a bit and its ozone layer should be healed by mid-century.

Aerosol spray and coolants made before the ban contained man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which released chlorine and bromine that ate away at the ozone.

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

The ozone layer starts about six miles above Earth.

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This year, the ozone hole over the South Pole peaked at almost 9.6 million square miles (24.8 million square kilometers). The findings come at a time when the world is still grappling with a sobering message from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that just 12 years remain to limit global warming to 1.5 degree C. The IPCC says beyond 1.5 degree C, the impact of a further rise in global temperatures will begin to have an increasingly extreme impact on humans and ecosystems.

But it's not a complete success yet, said University of Colorado's Brian Toon, who wasn't part of the report.

The report shows that the Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing to occur every year.

However, the report did note there is evidence of an increase in CFC-11 - an ozone depleting chemical - from eastern Asia since 2012.

"It shows that the ozone layer is under fix, and highlights areas that must be strengthened for it to be an equally successful platform to phase out HFCs to limit global warming", said Shikha Bhasin, programme lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). And the Montreal Protocol is set to be enhanced in early 2019 with the ratification of the Kigali Amendment, which seeks to curb future climate change by targeting powerful greenhouse gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning.

'I don't think we can do a victory lap until 2060, ' he said.

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