The ozone layer has been the subject of scientific campaigns some decades earlier, with researchers and scientists demanding we save its thinning structure. Recent studies have proved that many years later, our efforts have not been for naught. The ozone hole in Antarctica, which was one of the main subjects of the campaign, was reported to be already healing itself.
The ozone layer was discovered in 1913 by French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson, while its properties were explored by G. M. B. Dobson, a British meteorologist. It was then regarded as an important part of the Earth’s atmosphere, at least as far as the survival of the human species is concerned, because it absorbs most of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
However, in 1985 it was discovered that there is a depletion occurring in the ozone shield, particularly in the Antarctic region. This “hole” in the layer was first discovered by Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner and Jonathan Shanklin. They made a paper stating their discoveries, and details about the phenomenon were published in the esteemed science journal Nature.
Shortly after this, researchers worked on discovering what the causes of the depletion are. Dubbed “ozone-depleting substances” (ODS), researchers worked together to disseminate the information regarding these substances that harm the layer. “Chlorofluorocarbons” (CFCs) was one such term that was often used to refer to one kind of ozone-damaging substance.
Being that they were talking to laymen with minimal knowledge of scientific jargon, those concerned spread the terms “ozone layer” and “ozone shield,” as well, and it grew into popular use. It became a hot topic at the time, even more popular than global warming. People are concerned about the risks of skin cancer that will result in this depletion, if it goes unchecked.
It also helped that the people involved in the awareness campaign framed it as a matter of everyday relevance, which made it easily relatable. This ready cooperation of the people is probably one of the major reasons why the regulation of CFCs and other ODS have been successful and made relatively easier to follow.
This leads us to the Montreal Protocol of 1987, which at its core is an international treaty that was created to regulate the production of substances harmful to the ozone shield. It was first agreed upon on August 1987, and was put into action in 1989. All members of the United Nations, plus the region of Niue, the Cook Islands, the Holy See, and the European Union, have ratified this agreement.
And the efforts behind the agreement are not for nothing. Now, thirty years after the treaty was agreed upon, research has confirmed that the “hole” in the ozone shield above the Antarctic region is slowly healing itself. It is not just a minute difference as well, for it has been reported that the hole shrunk by about 4 million square kilometers.
Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist from MIT that lead the research, was quoted as saying that we can be “confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal.” The results from the whole world’s efforts to dial back on using and producing ODS has been very impressive, especially considering the fact that there are still volcanic eruptions spewing bursts of sulfur dioxide — a major contributor in the ozone shield’s destruction. The hole is even expected to be completely healed by 2050.
This story of the ozone layer healing itself has become a beautiful reminder. It proves that when we make an effort to sit down and think about solutions to problems, there are great things that humanity can do, as a whole.
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