The Ozone Layer in 2021: A tale of success



A victory for the environment is a mark of hope, honor, and success for humanity as a whole. It shows that while the road is long, bumpy, and full of obstacles, the final destination is within reach. Thus, as one of the record-breaking ozone holes finally closes, the world and the environment are back on track to saving the ozone layer and eliminating all the gaps.

The Antarctic ozone hole

The ozone layer is a crucial part of the atmosphere that revolves around the earth and absorbs harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. However, in 1985, scientists discovered that the layer above Antarctica was extremely depleting. Hence, they called the gap the “Antarctic ozone hole” while calling the world to take adequate action. Since the gap was a result of man-made chemical emissions, experts feared the danger of the ozone layer expanding and its consequence. Therefore, they began shedding awareness, studying, and researching ways to decrease the source of the problem.

Thus, on January 6, 2021, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) finally announced the closing of the Antarctic ozone hole. The actual feet took place during the final months of 2020, and it marked the victory of a battle that lasted almost forty years.

The Montreal Protocol

A very huge part of the success is due to the enforcement of the Montreal Protocol, which is an international agreement made in 1987. However, though the world agreed on the importance of the cause, actions only started truly taking place in 2004. Through the protocol, the international countries agreed to start a phaseout for CFCs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, and methyl chloroform in developed countries. On the other hand, developing countries were to undergo a phaseout on methyl bromide and HCFCs. Thus, the protocol banned all CFC-11 chemicals everywhere in every country, since they are most harmful to the Earth’s ozone layer.

Back on track

The closing of the Antarctic ozone hole doesn’t only represent the victory over one of the ozone’s gaps, but it also sets the world back on track for closing all of the ozone holes within the next 50 years. Thus, the world conquered the initial setback that started taking place back in 2014.

“The [Montreal] treaty did its job,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an advocacy group based in Washington, said. “Whoever the offending parties were — including most definitely China — they got their act together.”

In 2010, with the aid of the Montreal protocol, experts expected a huge decline in harmful emissions. However, from 2014 to 2017, the world witnessed an unexpected increase due to illegal pollution production in eastern China. Though via applying certain regulations, policies, monitoring, and enforcement, the Chinese government was able to drop back the harmful chemical emissions in 2018. The ones conducting the crime were “fly-by-night operators who were circumnavigating their own laws of the government.”

According to analysis, China’s emissions decreased by about 10,000 metric tons from its average annual emissions from 2014 to 2017. Thus, the world emissions also decreased from emitting almost 69,000 metric tons from 2014 to 2018 to emitting about 52,000 metric tons of CFC-11 in 2019.

“Later this century we should see the recovery of the ozone layer back to levels that we saw in 1980,” announced Dr. Western, an atmospheric scientist from the University of Bristol.

An atmospheric sleuthing

Technology is also helping in keeping up with anyone who violates the treaty. A while ago, a team of researchers used that same detection instrument to sleuth out major sources of illegal chemical emissions without even having to step a foot in China.

However, even despite technological advancement, keeping up with rogue emissions is proving to be rather difficult. “It’s not like elephant ivory that you can easily see,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, a climate analyst at the EIA. “They’re odorless, colorless gases.”

Thus, even though half of the illegal emissions used to be attributed to eastern china, scientists weren’t able to pinpoint the exact location responsible for the other half of the emissions.” We don’t know where the rest of it is coming from,” explained Montzka, a study coauthor. “It could be coming from other regions around the world.”


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