Forecasting Change: The hole in the ozone layer is healing

SAN ANTONIO – NASA has been tracking the hole in the ozone layer over Antartica since the 1980s, monitoring it as it slowly grew. However, a new report headed by the United Nations shows that the hole is actually shrinking, and on track to recover to 1980′s levels by the year 2040 — and in the most damaged areas, by 2066.

“This is a really good example of how we can make a global issue a challenge, but a success,” Dr. Kim Jones, an adjunct professor for environmental science at the University of Incarnate Word said.

Jones said the reason for the recovery of the ozone layer is thanks to harmful chemicals, known as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, being phased out due to the cooperation of countries across the globe during the Montreal Protocol, that took effect in 1989.

He suggests to think of the ozone layer as a thick layer of sunscreen that protects our skin from cancer, as well as our eyes and eyesight from severe damage.

Most importantly, the ozone protects not just us, but all our plants.

“Agriculture and plant materials would be negatively impacted and that would be a global catastrophe,” Jones said.

Jones said there is a lot more work to be done when it comes to combating global warming and protecting our planet. For example, the chemicals that replaced those CFCs that were phased out were replaced by chemicals that had other adverse effects on the planet.

”Those don’t damage the ozone layer, but it turns out they are very powerful greenhouse gases, about 2,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas,” Jones said.

Green house gases cause global warming, which contribute to the harmful impacts of climate change. Jones is hopeful that the shrinking of the hole in the ozone layer shows we can come together across the world and do the same to combat global warming.  

“This, this example is a success,” he said. “Why can’t we do the same thing with some of these greenhouse gases?”

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