Earth's protective ozone layer on track to heal within 50 years

© AFP - NASA - HANDOUT

The Earth’s protective ozone layer is healing at a rate that climatologists believe will see the stratospheric hole over Antarctica fully closed in the next five decades – but challenges remain.

According to a United Nations report presented at the American Meteorological Society convention in Denver on Monday, the latest scientific assessment of the status of the ozone layer suggests that recovery is making steady progress.

This comes more than 35 years after the landmark Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, when every nation in the world agreed to stop producing ozone-depleting substances that attack the layer of gas in the Earth’s stratosphere that shields the planet from radiation linked to skin cancer, cataracts and crop damage.

Progress is slow, however. According to Paul Newman, co-chair of the scientific assessment panel, “in the upper stratosphere and in the ozone hole we see things getting better".

The global average amount of ozone 30 kilometres above the planet won’t be back to pre-1980 levels until about 2040, and it won’t be back to normal over the Arctic until 2045.

Meanwhile, in Antarctica – where the ozone layer is so thin there’s a giant gaping hole – the levels won't be fully fixed until 2066.

Testament to success of Montreal Protocol

Signs of healing were reported four years ago but were slight; the latest report indicates the rate of recovery has solidified.

That bromine and chlorine levels “stopped growing and are coming down is a real testament to the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol”, Newman added.

Scientists have cautioned this could sharply reverse the recovery of the ozone layer.


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