The ozone layer’s recovery is good news for climate change, too – The Washington Post

by | Jan 9, 2023 | Climate Change

Comment on this storyCommentGift ArticleA new assessment of Earth’s depleted ozone layer released Monday shows that efforts to repair the vital atmospheric shield are working, according to a panel of U.N.-backed scientists, as global emissions of ozone-harming chemicals continue to decline.As a result, the ozone layer — which blocks ultraviolet sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface — continues to slowly thicken.Restoring it is key for human health, food security and the planet. UV-B radiation causes cancer and eye damage in humans. It also damages plants, inhibiting their growth and curbing their ability to store planet-warming carbon dioxide.Scientists said the ozone’s recovery should also serve as proof that societies can join to solve environmental problems and combat climate change.“Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done — as a matter of urgency — to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.”AdvertisementAt this rate, the ozone layer could recover to 1980′s levels across most of the globe by the 2040s, and by 2066 in Antarctica, the report concludes. Ozone loss is most dramatic above the South Pole, with an ozone “hole” appearing there every spring.Those improvements will not be steady, scientists stressed, given natural fluctuations in ozone levels and the ozone-inhibiting influence of volcanic eruptions like the massive one from underwater Pacific Ocean volcano Hunga Tonga a year ago.But scientists said the latest ozone data and projections are nonetheless further proof of the success of the Montreal Protocol, the global 1987 agreement to phase out production and use of ozone-depleting substances.Meg Seki, executive secretary of the U.N. Environmental Program’s Ozone Secretariat, in a statement called the findings “fantastic news.”AdvertisementA recent decline in observed levels of the chemical known as CFC-11, in particular — which as recently as 2018 had been observed at higher-than-expected levels and traced to China — is proof that societies can collaborate to address a confounding environmental problem, said Martyn Chipperfield, a professor at the University of Leeds who serves on the scientific panel.“That turned out to be another success story,” he said. “Communities came together and it was addressed.”Ozone is a molecule made of three oxygen atoms, and it proliferates in a layer of the stratosphere about nine to 18 miles above the ground. It can exist at ground level, too, where it is a product of air pollution on hot summer days and considered a health hazard. But in the atmosphere, it serves as an essential shield protecting Earth’s life from harmful ultraviole …

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