Rare good news for the planet: Ozone layer on track to recover within decades as chemicals phase out

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In rare good news for the planet, the Earth’s ozone layer is set to recover completely within decades, as ozone-depleting chemicals are phased out throughout the world, according to a new assessment supported by the United Nations.

The ozone layer protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet rays. But since the late 1980s, scientists have sounded the alarm about a hole in this shield, caused by ozone-depleting substances including chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, which are often found in refrigerants, aerosols and solvents.

International cooperation helped stop the damage. The use of CFCs has decreased by 99% since the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in 1989, which began the phase-out of these and other ozone-harming chemicals, according to an assessment by a panel of experts published on Monday.

If global policies remain in place, the ozone layer is expected to return to 1980 levels by 2040 for most of the world, the assessment found. For polar regions, the timetable for recovery is longer: 2045 over the Arctic and 2066 over the Antarctic.

“Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action. Our success in phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals shows us what can and must be done – urgently – to move away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and thus prevent temperature rise,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Petteri. Taalas.

Ozone-depleting gases are also potent greenhouse gases, and without curbs the world could have seen additional warming of up to 1 degree Celsius, according to a 2021 study in the journal Nature. The planet has already warmed around 1.2 degrees since the industrial revolution, and scientists have warned that it should be limited to 1.5 degrees to prevent the worst consequences from the climate crisis. Warming beyond 1.5 degrees would greatly increase the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages, scientists have reported.

For the first time in this assessment, which is published every four years, scientists also looked at the prospects for solar geoengineering: the attempt to reduce global warming through measures such as spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight out of the earth’s atmosphere.

They found that stratospheric aerosol injection could help reduce climate warming but warned that there could be unintended consequences. Using the technology “It could also affect stratospheric temperatures, ozone circulation and production and destruction and transport rates,” the report, published every four years, found.

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