top of page
  • Emma Burton

Earth's Ozone Layer Set To Recover By 2066

POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS ALERT!! The United Nations' new assessment has revealed that not only is the Arctics ozone layer on track to recover by 2045, but the hole over Antarctica will fully heal by 2066. An amazing discovery, considering it was causing mass panic for the future of humanity.


A collective decision created 35 years ago has made this finding possible. Every nation agreed to halt the production of chemicals that eat up the Earth’s protective barrier, which is vital for shielding us from toxic radiation. A recent amendment was also put in order, eliminating aerosols made to replace those terminated by the Montreal Protocol, due to the replacements emitting strong greenhouse gases. As presented in the report, it is slow progress, but since the 1989 Montreal agreement 99% of the chemicals have been eliminated.


The reaction to targeting CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) is a representation that the agreement should be seen as “the most successful environmental treaty in history and offers encouragement that countries of the world can come together and decide an outcome and act on it.” - David Fahey, leading author of the assessment and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist.


He mentions that despite the worldwide steps taken to target the CFCs, the chemicals stay lingering for around a century in the atmosphere. “It’s a bit like waiting for paint to dry, you just have to wait for nature to do its thing and flush out these chemicals”. Like carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases pose a problem due to their longevity in the atmosphere, as fossil fuel emissions both; spread further and are buried in some of society's activities.

“CO2 is another order of magnitude when it comes to its longevity, which is sobering - Getting every person on the planet to stop burning fossil fuels is a vastly different challenge.” - Fahey.

Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization states: “Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action - Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what and must be done as a matter of urgency to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.”


The chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Paul Newman, announced the decrease in levels of two leading chemicals in the atmosphere. Chlorine, whose levels peaked in 1993, is now 11.5% lower, and Bromine has dropped 14.5% since 1999. Newman has said that the fact they have “stopped growing and is coming down is a real testament to the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol”. He continues that the Antarctic’s natural weather patterns affect the ozone hole levels, as previous years have seen an increase in the holes. Nonetheless, we are seeing an overall healing process.


However, there is doubt of reversed progress if geoengineering projects go ahead.


Solar geoengineering - reflective particles, like sulphur, ‘are sprayed en masse into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight and therefore reduce global heating’.

This proposed practice could result in “unintended consequences, including effects on the ozone”.


Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) is an increasingly popular practice used as a ‘potential stop-gap measure’, to restrict temperatures long enough to solve the issue. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo provides evidence that it does work, as the dust and debris emitted from the stratovolcano subsided temperatures for nearly a year.

A calculation made by scientists has seen that injecting yearly the equivalent to the 1991 event - 8-16 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide - could cool the Earth’s temperature by around 1C.


Fahey mentioned how these amounts of sulphur could decrease ozone, but maybe by no more than 10%, and not cause the ozone layer to “collapse”.


“These sort of climate interventions are touchy subjects because they are a tangled ball of ethics and governance, rather than just science. - They would indeed, though, be consequences for ozone if you put enough sulphur into the atmosphere. It would be unavoidable.”


Reports do warn, however, that if such aerosol practices happen it would thin the ozone layer by around 20% in Antarctica. Haven’t the polar bears suffered enough!

What’s more, the IPCC (UN’s climate science advisory panel) has also warned of additional unplanned consequences, such as African and Asian monsoons and the drying of the Amazon.

Sadly these disastrous events mean food shortages and a savanna like rainforest - maybe this practice isn’t the best idea…


Molecules like CFCs have, on the whole, slowly reduced the ozone in the upper stratosphere and both the South and North pole. Yet a new report has highlighted a surprise decrease in the lower stratosphere ozone over Earth's ‘tropical and mid-latitude regions’. Climate change and industrial chemicals not enclosed by the assessment are potential suspects


Although we are aware the efforts to reverse climate change are there, a quick fix like solar geoengineering isn’t the best plan when there are possible horrible repercussions.


Sources

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/09/ozone-layer-healed-within-decades-un-report

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/ozone-layer-recovery-earth-atmosphere-b2258821.html

https://www.rte.ie/news/world/2023/0109/1345698-ozone-layer/



bottom of page