Humanity healed the ozone hole. Can we do the same for climate change? –

by | Sep 26, 2022 | Climate Change

The 2019 ozone hole. Credit: NASA

The year was 1987, and Earth’s shield against the giant thermonuclear reaction in the sky was failing.

Human-made chemicals in aerosol cans and refrigeration were eating up a thin protective layer of atmospheric gas called ozone, and heavy doses of radiation from the sun were leaking through. Scientists warned of a dangerous weak spot over Antarctica—the “ozone hole”—and a dire future.
Unless the world’s 5 billion people took collective action, they said, the hole would grow and new ones would form at higher latitudes and roam the planet. Rates of skin cancer and blindness would increase, and plant and animal life would suffer unpredictable harm.
But that fate was averted. In September 1987, the United States and dozens of key nations signed the Montreal Protocol, a binding agreement to phase out the ozone-depleting substances, particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons. Three decades later, emissions of the substances have dropped more than 99%, their presence in the atmosphere has halved, and the ozone hole is on track to fully heal by 2070.
“We’ve reached a critical milestone,” said Stephanie Haysmith, a communications officer with the United Nations’ Ozone Secretariat. “We’re on the right path.”
But while the ozone risk has diminished, another global threat has ramped up: human-caused climate change. Experts say that challenge is more complex and more pressing than ozone depletion and drives a need to learn from the Montreal Protocol and repeat its success.
And unlike ozone, humanity is “heading in the wrong direction” on climate, a United Nations report warned this month. In 2021, carbon dioxide, the most problematic greenhouse gas, reached its highest conce …

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