When left to his devices, man will soon destroy the world, as shown in the discovery of the ozone hole. But did you know that this discovery actually united all the nations?
The Montreal Protocol of 1987 is the environmental treaty that was signed by every country. Its goal is to stop the depletion of the ozone layer. The protocol was responsible for phasing out 98% of ozone-depleting substances.
The Hole in the Ozone
The discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole was brought to public knowledge in May 1985. Scientists Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey noticed the new phenomenon – unanticipated and significant decreases in stratospheric ozone levels were detected in the ozone levels over the Antarctic stations Halley and Faraday. The ozone layer was only about two-thirds thick as it was in earlier decades. (Source: EAPS)
They discovered that the ozone values over Halley and Faraday stations have consistently decreased as the sun reappeared each spring. The deals started dropping in the mid-seventies, and something in the stratosphere was causing it.
As we know, the ozone layer is a region in the Earth’s stratosphere. It contains high levels of trioxygen which effectively blocks most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The scientists determined that chemicals found in everyday items like air conditioners and aerosol sprays, chlorofluorocarbons have incredibly adverse effects on the ozone layer. (Source: History)
Other scientists confirmed the presence of the hole. Satellites documented that the hole has already covered around 20 million square kilometers. Furthermore, they discovered that the ozone layer is susceptible to CFC because of its geography. Chlorine from CFC transforms into an active form when hit by the sun in spring, effectively destroying the ozone layer. (Source: U.K. Research and Innovation)
The Montreal Protocol
Two years after discovering the ozone hole, the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, or Montreal Protocol, in short, was created. The protocol was designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ODS, or ozone-depleting substances. (Source: U.S. Department of State)
The protocol was initially signed by 46 nations, pledging to phase out ODS in their country. Soon after, all 197 members of the United Nations signed and supported the protocol. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan notes that the protocol may be the single most successful international agreement due to the speed and adoption of the treaty. (Source: History)
The protocol went into effect on January 1, 1989, continuously amended to reduce further and phase out CFCs and halons. The treaty now includes phasing out the manufacture and use of carbon tetrachloride, trichloroethane, hydrofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrobromofluorocarbons, and methyl bromide. (Source: Britannica)
With the full implementation of the protocol, scientists predicted that the ozone layer would return to its pre-1980s state. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also estimates that Americans are expected to avoid 443 million cases of skin cancer, about 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts. (Source: U.S. Department of State)
The 2018 study conducted by the World Meteorological Organization and UNEP has already shown the first signs of recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctica, and full recovery globally is expected in 2065. (Source: Britannica)