First discovered in the 1980s, the depletion of the protective ozone layer surrounding the Earth resulted in the appearance of a hole over Antarctica. Caused by the build-up of chlorofluorocarbons in the Earth’s atmosphere, the damage to the ozone layer presented humans with evidence of their impact on the planet and the potentially dangerous consequences of failing to mitigate any harm they cause.
In response to the alarming appearance of the hole in the ozone layer, all member states of the United Nations ratified the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that required the chemicals responsible for ozone depletion to be phased out. The effects of these actions were rapid. In the subsequent decades, atmospheric concentrations of the most damaging chlorofluorocarbons stopped increasing or actually decreased.
In January 2023, the United Nations Environment Programme released a report providing an update on the progress of ozone recovery. The report emphasizes the effectiveness of the actions taken as a result of the Montreal Protocol and indicates that ozone levels are now expected to return to their 1980 values by 2040. Furthermore, the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is now expected to close by around 2066.
As it will still take decades for the ozone layer to fully recover, we must remain vigilant about the use of chlorofluorocarbons and ensure that newly developed chemicals do not cause similar damage to our atmosphere. However, the fact that our actions have corrected a problem we ourselves created offers hope that when motivated, humans can cooperate to take effective steps to protect and heal our planet.
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