The Earth’s ozone layer will be fully recovered in the following 40 years

The Earth’s ozone layer will be fully recovered in the following 40 years


The Montreal Protocol continues to work decades later than its ratification.


Laura Baisas

Published January 10, 2023 at 4:00 PM

NASA Satellite images showing a hole in 2019's ozone layer.

The smallest known ozone hole since 1982 was caused by abnormal weather patterns over Antarctica. NASA Goddard/Katy Mersmann

The Earth’s ozone layer has been recovering thanks to the work of over 30 countries in keeping harmful chemicals from the atmosphere.

The Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances has been successfully phased-out by the United Nations 2022 Scientific Assessment Panel.

[Related: From the archives: NASA dispatches drone to help rescue the ozone layer.]

It is possible that Earth’s ozone layer will recover to levels seen before the ozone hole was detected. This could be achieved if current policies are maintained. The Antarctic ozone gap continued to expand until 2000. The layer’s size has fluctuated due to meteorological factors between 2019-2021, however it has remained intact over the last 22 years.

Scientists discovered that the ozone layer had a hole in it during the 1980s. The Montreal Protocol was signed by 46 nations two years later. It promised to end the use over 100 synthetic chemicals which deplete Earth’s ozone layer. Later, this agreement became the first UN-ratified treaty.

The latest quadrennial report shows that ozone recovery has been on track. This is great news. It is hard to overstate the impact of Montreal Protocol on climate change mitigation. The Protocol has been a champion for the environment over the past 35 years,” Meg Seki (executive secretary, United Nations Environment Programme’s Ozone Secretariat) said in a statement. The Scientific Assessment Panel’s assessments and reviews are a crucial part of Protocol work that informs policy makers and decision-makers.

The ozone layer, located in the stratosphere protects Earth’s living organisms from ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun. The ozone layer can be destroyed by synthetic chemicals such as the chlorofluorocarbons. (CFCs), which are used in aerosol sprays and solvents. The danger of skin cancer and severe sunburns from ultraviolet rays can be increased by their ability to damage DNA and cause serious and painful burns.

Although the loss of the ozone layer may not be a significant cause of climate changes, it is proving beneficial to the global fight against them.

[Related: The US ban on hydrofluorocarbons is a climate game-changer.]

A 2016 amendment to Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment (the Kigali Amendment), required that certain hydrofluorocarbons be phased out. Although HFCs don’t directly reduce ozone, their powerful climate-change gases can increase warming. In 2018, a rise in CFC usage was noticed. This was tracked back to China. However, it was soon fixed.

According to scientists, Kigali Amgenment can prevent warming of 0.5-0.9degF by 2100. This does not include HFC-23 emission contributions.

“Ozone action is a model for climate change. “Our success in eliminating ozone-eating chemical shows what we can and must do – urgently – to shift away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gasses and limit the rise in temperature,” Petteri Taalas (World Meteorological Organization Secretary General) said in a statement.

Laura Baisas

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