According to reports, scientists have discovered that the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is closing, and should be entirely healed by 2050. The ozone layer is the pale blue gaseous substance that shields the earth, and protects us from the sun's harmful ultra violet rays.
In the 1980s and 1990s, most of the world was busy at work pumping chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, methyl chloroform, and other ozone depleting chemical substances into the air, by way of various air pollutants such as aerosol cans and dry cleaning solutions. At some point in history, there came to be too many humans doing these things.
As a result, the ozone over Antarctica became dangerously thin. In 1985, a hole was discovered in the ozone layer above Antarctica. That same year, the Vienna Convention established mechanisms for international cooperation in atmospheric research. Many countries (24, to be exact) signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer in September of 1987, at the famed Vienna Convention. It was a global treaty by which all parties agreed to phase out chemicals that damage the ozone layer. These chemicals are collectively known as ODCs, or ozone depleting chemicals. The treaty stated that most CFCs would be phased out by 2000, and all of them by 2005.
Other countries were offered huge incentives to also sign the agreement, as the ozone layer is an environmental problem most effectively addressed at the global level. Collectively and eventually, we eliminated these major, man made pollutants. According to MIT researcher Susan Solomon, "We can now be confident that the things we've done have put the planet on a path to heal."
Susan Solomon is, at best, jumping the gun in her optimism. Her prediction seems to assume that the ozone hole will continue to close at a constant rate, until it is closed altogether. This may be expecting too much, although research shows that the hole has shrunk about two and a half million square miles since 2000. But in 2015, the hole got bigger than ever when the Chilean volcano Calbuco erupted. Volcanoes are another way to add to ozone deterioration. But man didn't make volcanoes, nor can man inactivate them. Still, Solomon believes that if progress continues, the hole should be completely closed by mid century. That's a big if!
"Aren't we amazing humans?" chirps Solomon.
Actually no, Susan, we are not. We are the ones who made this mess. In any case, Solomon and her team were able to show that, as chlorine levels in the atmosphere decreased, the rate at which the ozone hole opens slows down. The research of Susan Solomon's team has been published in Science. Says another researcher, Diane Ivy, "It showed that we can actually see a chemical fingerprint, which is sensitive to levels of chlorine, finally emerging as a sign of recovery."
As always, we can improve things. We can make things last longer. But nothing is perfect, and nothing lasts forever. The only real constant is change.
Contributor & Chief Coffee Maker