The United Nations International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer is celebrated around the world, on September 16, each year. This year’s theme is “Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On.” Almost a generation ago (1987), the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty, was signed by many countries to protect the Ozone Layer and eliminate the use of ozone depleting substances. The commemoration around the world offers an opportunity to focus attention and action at the global, regional and national levels on the protection of the ozone layer.
The Ozone Layer
The Ozone Layer is a thin protective layer of naturally occurring gas – ozone, comprising three atoms of oxygen found about 10-50 kilometres above the Earth’s surface that protects us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation or UV-B rays of sun. Scientists in the 1970s discovered that the ozone layer was thinning as a result of the release of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), consequently, the Ozone Hole developed. In 1985, nations around the world convened at Vienna, Austria, in an attempt to develop a framework for cooperative activities to protect the Ozone Layer. This signed agreement became known as the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.
Ozone Layer Protection – A success story
Earth’s Ozone Layer may be on the path to recovery. Scientists have found that the concentrated, international action against ozone depleting substances has put our ozone back on track to regeneration. Satellites observed the largest ozone hole over Antarctica in 2006. Purple and blue represent areas of low ozone concentrations in the atmosphere; yellow and red are areas of higher concentrations.
The stratospheric Ozone Layer is a fragile shield of gas that protects our planet from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Without action during the Montreal Protocol, atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances could have increased tenfold by 2050, which would have led to about two million cases of skin cancer annually by 2030.
Now, it seems as if this won’t be in our Earth’s future. The phase-out of ozone depleting substances has had an effect. Yet, there are still challenges ahead: it turns out that some replacement substances are potent greenhouse gases (GHGs), which can be detrimental to our world’s climate.
Though the global cooperative efforts of countries, industries, communities and individuals are contributing to the “mending” of the ozone hole, as this year theme says “The Mission Goes On”.
Why care about the Ozone Layer?
The Ozone Layer acts as an atmospheric shield. All life on Earth depends on its protection from the lethal levels of ultraviolet radiation produced by the sun.
It can result in increased incidence of skin cancer, eye and immune system damage.