A panel of experts confirmed in a report for the United Nations that the ozone layer will recover within decades because of the phase-out of nearly 99 percent of ozone-depleting substances. This news is said to be “the greatest and only long-term success in climate action.”
The phase-out of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons, under the Montreal Protocol, a landmark agreement signed in September 1987 after scientists found a hole in the ozone above Antarctica, helped avoid an estimated 0.5 degrees C of global warming, the report stated. Now the ozone layer, a shield that protects Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, is on track to recover fully by 2040, while the hole over the Antarctic will regenerate by 2066.
“[The ozone hole] is often held up as a signature environmental success story, and it really is the one area where decisions were made in a pretty remarkably timely fashion, and the phase-out has been quite successful…,” Susan Soloman, professor of Earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at MIT, said. “Consumers turned away from spray cans in the ‘70s even before they were banned…[It] was an easy thing that a consumer could do.”
Many believe the Montreal Protocol was so successful because the ozone layer became the first international climate issue and it” changed the public perception of the environment and led to an effective response,” Causes.com reported. The public responded to the problem and stopped buying products with known ODS. This, in turn, made the manufacturers of ODS products change their products immediately.
“The impact the Montreal Protocol has had on climate change mitigation cannot be over-stressed,” Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the UN Environment Program’s (UNEP) Ozone Secretariat, said. “Over the last 35 years, the Protocol has become a true champion for the environment. The assessments and reviews undertaken by the Scientific Assessment Panel remain a vital component of the work of the Protocol that helps inform policy and decision-makers.”
The Kigali Amendment, an additional agreement to the Montreal Protocol put in place in 2016, also “requires a phase-down of the production and consumption of some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs),” which will help avoid another 0.3–0.5°C of warming by 2100, according to the UN.
The report, which is published every four years on the progress of the Montreal Protocol, “reaffirms the positive impact that the treaty has had on the climate.”
“Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action,” Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, said. “Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done—as a matter of urgency—to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.”