30 Years of Healing the Ozone together
The ozone layer is one of the most important source of protection that exists on Earth. It is a region of the stratosphere containing a high concentration of ozone, and it prevents a great amount of ultraviolet and other high-energy radiation from penetrating to the earth surface.
The ozone layer has been a security blanket that lies on top of the earth, protecting it from harmful rays, however, humans have abused of the use of CFCs, and other industrial chemicals that are now destroying this layer and causing big worries and health risks to all living things.
There have been many holes discovered on the layer, and scientist are deep into research to find new ways to solve this problem. What follows, will discuss the structure of the ozone layer, so that it can be understood what is happening when it is being destroyed. Also, different pollutants and how they can be avoided will be researched in order to come up with a unique solution to this dangerous problem.
The ozone layer is one of the oldest things on the planet, older than any of the ancient creatures we see in our museums today. The ozone layer has provided protection for the living components under it for millions of years, and without the ozone layer, we most likely would not be here today. The ozone layer is a layer of ozone particles scattered between 19 and 30 kilometers up in the earth’s atmosphere. Without the ozone layer, UV radiation would not be stopped from entering the earth’s atmosphere and coming to the surface. Cancer would break out and all of the living civilizations, and all species on earth would be in jeopardy.
In the 1970’s, scientists first discovered that chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) potentially could destroy the ozone layer, and since CFC’s had been in use as refrigerants, coolants, and propellants for aerosol cans since the 1930’s, there was could have a lot of damage already done. However, only in the 1070s, the dramatic loss of ozone in the lower stratosphere over Antarctica was first noticed.
Over Antarctica, stratospheric ozone has been depleted over the last 15 years at certain times of the year. This is mainly due to the release of manmade chemicals containing chlorine such as CFCs, but also compounds containing bromine, other related halogens and also nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Ozone is a naturally occurring trace gas, chemical formula O3. In the stratosphere, it serves to absorb many harmful solar UV rays.
The atmosphere is about 1000 km (600 miles) thick. Atmospheric layers, as measured in distance from the Earth’s surface, are:
Troposphere (0 to 10 km; 0 to 6 miles)
Stratosphere (10 to 50 km; 6 to 30 miles)
Mesosphere (50 to 80 km; 30 to 50 miles)
Thermosphere (80 to 600 km; 50 to 400 miles)
Exosphere (600 to 1000 km; 400 to 600 miles)
Scientist have estimated that the average rate of ozone depletion is 0.5% per year. For this reason, scientists are pushing for finding some option to fix the disaster.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, an important milestone in the protection of the ozone layer. The theme for the celebration of the anniversary and this year’s International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer to be marked on 16 September is, “30 Years of Healing the Ozone Together.” The theme is supported by the slogan, “Ozone: All there is between you and UV.” As part of the commemorative activities, the Ozone Secretariat is conducting a smart digital campaign that entails the dissemination of powerful communications products such as videos, animations, posters and social media messages through various outlets to celebrate the many successes achieved under the ozone protection regime over the past 30 years. As a result of concerted global efforts, the ozone layer is healing itself and is expected to recover by the middle of this century. In addition, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year by 2030 and significant adverse effects on agriculture, wildlife, fisheries and materials have been avoided.
Ozone is even more precious than you might think. If our world’s entire atmosphere was at sea-level pressure and temperature, it would still be about 8,000 meters deep. Yet in all that, ozone would only occupy a layer just about 3mm deep. Ozone protects every living thing on Earth from harmful UV, so we are working together to maintain this remarkable natural resource.
It sometimes feels as if environmental news is never good news, but that certainly isn’t true when it comes to the ozone layer. The UN has announced that the ozone layer is showing “Signs of recovery “. Evidence has pointed to recovery for some time, but researchers have waited until they were confident that the hole in the ozone layer was beginning to heal. It’s not yet restored to perfect health – that will take a few more decades – but a significant corner has been turned.
The most recent estimate of what would have happened without ozone protection suggests that by 2030 there would have been around 2m more cases of skin cancer a year worldwide. That can’t be a precise figure, but even if we take as a “ball-park” estimate, that’s 2m people every year being saved from skin cancer because governments acted to protect the ozone layer.
Looking over a longer timescale, do the math’s. Two million fewer skin cancers a year, year on year on year soon generates some very large numbers. And those figures don’t take in to account the massive ozone depletion that would have occurred worldwide by the middle of this century. That collapse in global ozone is a consistent outcome of “world-avoided” research and would have increased UV levels around the world beyond anything that has ever been experienced since humans evolved.
When the Vienna convention was signed no one could be really sure exactly how ozone depletion might develop, but governments were brave enough to make tough decisions based on the best estimates of future risks. 30 years later, research allows us to confirm just how right those decisions were.
Surely that’s good news not just for ozone, but also as we look ahead to the even tougher challenges of responding to climate change.
BSCS 3rd Semester
Preston University Islamabad