Ozone for Life — 35 years of Ozone Layer Protection
This year, we are celebrating 35 years of preservation of the ozone layer. On 19 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September as the world ozone day commemorating the Vienna convention and Montreal protocol, to cut 99 percent of ozone-depleting substance out of the atmosphere and make people aware of the depletion of the ozone layer and finding possible ways of the ozone layer protection.
History Behind World Ozone Day
Scientists were researching in the late 1970s and found a developing hole in the atmospheric shield of earth i.e ozone layer. It was due to the ozone-depleting gases mostly produced by aerosols and cooling systems such as refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. penetrating ultraviolet rays through the depleted ozone layer can cause skin cancer and cataracts, and damage plants, crops, and ecosystems. Then the world comes together and In 1985, the world’s governments adopted the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Under the Convention’s Montreal Protocol, governments, scientists, and industry worked together to protect the ozone layer by taking tangible actions for controlling the substances that deplete the ozone layer. In support of the Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, which came into force in 2019, will work towards reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs), greenhouse gases with powerful climate-warming potential, and damaging to the environment.
The Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification on 16 September 2009.
“The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer” is a formally concluded and ratified framework for international cooperation concerning the protection of the ozone layer, which was adopted in 1985 and entered into force in 1988. It provides observations, research, and information exchange on the ozone layer.
“The Montreal Protocol for controlled action against ODSs” is the formally signed document by developed countries around the world to take action ending the production of halons and CFCs which comes in the ozone depletion substance category. Cooperation of the Vienna convention results in the signing of the Montreal Protocol, however, the Vienna Convention does not require the taking control action against ODSs, rather it comes in the Montreal protocol.
What is the Ozone Layer?
The ozone layer is the high concentration protecting layer in the earth’s stratosphere nearly 15 to 30 km above the earth’s surface. Almost 90% of the ozone gas that the earth contains is found in the stratosphere as the ozone layer. Ozone is made up of three atoms of oxygen(O3), a very reactive gas in nature, shielding the planet earth from the harmful ultraviolet radiation of the sun that can destroy the living things on earth. On account of this we can figure out how important this layer is, so this year theme is based on this anthem that we need to save our lives and future generations by preserving our guard — OZONE LAYER
Why is Ozone so important?
In the history of the earth, there is always a helper like a shield over Earth, thin but very protective i.e Ozone layer. It plays an important role in beholding some special capabilities to absorb most of the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun which can affect our planet so badly that life could come to an end. It is our responsibility to decrease carbon emission for the ozone layer protection.
There are some ozone-depleting substances:
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
- Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
- Methyl bromide
- Carbon tetrachloride
- Methyl chloroform
Excessive depletion of the ozone layer due to these substances is leading to life-threatening diseases like skin cancer, cataract, loss of immunity to diseases. It will impact the ecosystem also. Plant growth will be affected. Ultraviolet radiation has an adverse reaction with plastic too.
A threat to Ozone Layer: Hole in the Ozone
- The thickness of the ozone layer around the globe varies according to proximity to the sun and fluctuations of ozone molecules in different climatic conditions
- According to researchers, scientists discovered that the layer is depleting gradually due to the excess carbon emission by man-made activities.
- Ozone molecule density or ozone layer strength is measured in Dobson units
- A large hole has made over Antarctica(southern hemisphere) and arctic(northern hemisphere) which allows the ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth’s surface
- Ozone layer holes widen up in winter through the early springs almost 1–2 months for the arctic and 5–6 months for Antarctica. An ‘ozone hole’ is formed due to the formation of polar stratospheric clouds(PSCs), which only take place around -80℃
- Sun rays initiate the reaction between ozone molecules and chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine present in the atmosphere
- Recent information from Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) reveals that the ozone hole in the arctic is fully healed and closed and it is not because of any air quality changes
Is it the Montreal Protocol behind Ozone Layer healing till now?
- Thanks to the Montreal protocol, the initiative for which nations united in 1987 to protect the shield of the earth comes with good news. According to a NASA report, it reveals that the ozone layer is recovering effectively.
- The Antarctic ozone hole reaches its smallest annual peak on record since 1982. Milestones are not meant to be destinations. So we need to keep on progressing to phase out all the ozone-depleting chemicals from the atmosphere.
- According to NASA and the NOAA, the annual ozone hole — which consists of an area of heavily depleted ozone high in the stratosphere above Antarctica, between 7 and 25 miles (11 and 40 kilometers) above the surface — reached its peak extent of 6.3 million square miles on September 8 and then shrank to less than 3.9 million square miles during the rest of September and October.
If the Montreal protocol was not signed against CFCs to protect the ozone layer, this will be the actual condition of our planet.
What can we do to preserve the Ozone layer?
- Reduce the emission of ozone-depleting substances: Excess of aerosols and the use of air-conditioners that produce ozone-depleting substances increase the depletion of the ozone layer by providing a surface for CFCs(chlorofluorocarbons), halogenated hydrocarbon, methyl bromide, and nitrous oxide to destroy ozone molecule in the stratosphere. We should limit our usage of AC’s & aerosols.
- Minimal use of automobiles: The most Eco-friendly way of transportation is a bicycle or walking but if you can not do this, try to use public transport or carpool but with proper precautions as per the 2020s scenario of COVID-19
- Use homemade and Eco-friendly cleaners: Almost all of the cleaners available in the market are chemical-based, those have harmful solvents and fumes that can affect health and the environment too. So try to use a homemade cleaner like citrus fruit peel with vinegar, baking powder with vinegar, etc.
- Use local products: In this way, you not only get fresh products but you avoid consuming food that has traveled long distances. As the more distance traveled, the more nitrous oxide is produced due to the medium used to transport that product.
- Proper maintenance needed for air-conditioners: Proper cleaning and maintenance of air-conditioners is needed as their malfunctioning could cause CFCs to release into the atmosphere.
How India is contributing to the perseverance of the Ozone layer?
India contributed and signed the Vienna convention’s Montreal Protocol for the protection of the Ozone layer in 1992 on phasing out the ozone-depleting substances from the atmosphere signaling the country’s commitments to the global cause for the preservation of the ozone layer depletion.
- Since 1993, India has contributed to the United Nations development program, phasing out of ozone-depleting substances implementing USD 40 million in multilateral fund projects
- As a result of the support, India completely phased out all man-made chemicals responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer like Chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, and halons.
- India is the biggest exporter of steel and in the production of steel, there is a harmful chemical used in the cleaning of steel known as carbon tetrachloride. But now, many steel companies have stopped using that and replaced it with tetrachloroethene which is less harmful to the environment.
- Manufacturers of metered-dose inhalers have completely transitioned to ozone-friendly and affordable alternatives, demonstrating the potential for environment-friendly public health management in the country.
- The National Ozone Unit (NOU) has undertaken a comprehensive public awareness campaign to ensure that both the public and the companies responsible for actually phasing out the ODS understand and support
- In 2002, A book named “The Montreal Protocol-India’s success story” was published by Ozone cell, ministry of environment and forests, the government of India. It was all about the efforts made by the Indian government and people to protect the ozone layer and succeeding efforts following the Montreal protocol.
- Merzdorf, Jessica. “NASA Data Aids Ozone Hole’s Journey to Recovery.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 16 Apr. 2020, https://phys.org/news/2020-04-nasa-aids-ozone-hole-journey.html
- “Protecting the Ozone Layer; Protecting the Global Environment.” UNDP in India, https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/climate-and-disaster-reslience/successstories/protecting-the-ozone-layer-protecting-the-global-environment.html.
- “Nasa Ozone Watch: Ozone Hole Facts.” NASA, NASA, https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/facts/hole_SH.html
- Andrew Freedman, The Washington Post. “NASA Just Revealed Incredibly Good News About 2019 Ozone Hole Data.” ScienceAlert, https://www.sciencealert.com/the-2019-ozone-hole-is-the-smallest-on-record-since-its-discovery
- Ozone Cell: Ministry of Environment and Forests, India,ss-2002, http://www.ozonecell.com/uploads/files/SS-2002.pdf