By Kelly Bjornstad
The ozone layer is a thin layer of earth’s atmosphere that absorbs the dangerous ultraviolet light that comes from the sun. Because of gasses like chlorofluorocarbons, the ozone layer has been suffering from large holes around earth’s polar regions. How? Ozone molecules are worn down from, again, the gasses found in common urban and developments like spray cans and refrigerants.
The first hole was found in 1985 by Jonathan Shanklin- Junior researcher at BAS. OurWorldInData writes “Global emissions of ozone-depleting substances have declined by more than 99% since 1986.” And during the 90s, an all time record low for the ozone layer was surpassed. EarthObbservatory.nasa.gov notes “By 1991, a new threshold was passed, as the ozone concentration fell below 100 DU for the first time. Since then, concentrations below 100 became more common.” And in the early 2000s, conditions had grown even worse. EarthObservatory.nasa.gov also adds “In 2000, the ozone hole grew quicker than usual and exceptionally large. By the first week in September the hole was the largest ever—11.4 million square miles.”
But recently, the ozone layer has begun its road back to recovery. It’s thickening because of scientists’ efforts to combat the ozone’s depletion, being done by slowly phasing out chemicals that harm the atmospheric layer. The Washington Post explains “At this rate, the ozone layer could recover to 1980s levels across most of the globe by the 2040s, and by 2066 in Antarctica, the report concludes.” This is fantastic news. Without the ozone layer protection human health is put greatly at risk. Skin and eye issues are among some of the worst damage that comes from this direct light. With an ozone layer that’s stronger, our plants will also be able to survive, decreasing the amount of CO2 that goes into the air. This is a vital point in the feedback loop that is human health, global warming, and overall health of the planet. As NASA reiterated in their article, “1987 agreement called the Montreal Protocol that banned a class of chemicals often used in refrigerants and aerosols — as one of the biggest ecological victories for humanity.”
It’s important to note that by referring to the “hole” in the ozone layer, experts aren’t being literal. “Hole” just means where the ozone layer concentration drops below the threshold of 220 Dobson units, a threshold that has been set based off of historical levels. Dobson units are a unit of measurement for ozone in the atmosphere, and one Dobson unit is equal to 0.01mm thickness of pure ozone, at standard temperature and pressure. United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Anderson told the Associated press that the restrictions and phasing out of harmful chemicals for regular use is “saving 2 million people every year from skin cancer,” Thanks to the help of “The global recognition of the destructive potential of CFCs led to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a treaty phasing out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals.” According to NASA.
Hopefully, the trend of recognition for pressing global issues continues, and the amount of harmful chemicals humans emit into the atmosphere will continue to decline. Until then, it’s important that everybody continue to be aware of the damage on the earth that we all participate in.