Earth's ozone layer finally healing, says UN


The ozone layer, which shields life on Earth from the Sun's harmful rays, is on track to recover by the middle of the century from the damage caused by refrigerants and aerosol sprays, the United Nations reported Monday, saying the development was an inspiration for climate action to halt a catastrophic rise in world temperatures.

Scientists have also noted that the recovery of the ozone layer above Antarctica could slightly worsen the impacts of climate change in that region as the hole in the protective layer there has shielded the area from the full impacts of global warming.

Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and co-chair of the report, said: "It's really good news". The agreement prompted nations to take action to reduce the presence of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances used in various consumer products in the ozone layer. "But we stopped them".

It is possible the healing of the ozone hole above Antarctica may insulate the continent and accelerate climate warming, but report co-author Ross Salawitch, an atmospheric scientist at the University of MI, said the immediate effects of ozone damage were such that it would be "incredibly irresponsible" not to protect the depleted ozone layer.

The Protocol was in response to the revelation that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances - used in aerosols, cooling and refrigeration systems, and many other items - were tearing a hole in the ozone layer and allowing unsafe ultraviolet radiation to flood through. Use of man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which release chlorine and bromine, began eating away at the ozone leaving a big hole. It's unclear, however, how much more warming can be expected once the Antarctic ozone hole heals.

At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10 percent of the upper ozone layer was depleted, said Newman.

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The source of the increase in production and emissions has not been identified.

The hole reaches its peak in September and October and disappears by late December until the next Southern Hemisphere spring, Mr Newman said.

However, while most of the banned gases have been phased out, the report found at least one violation of the protocol: an unexpected increase in production and emissions of CFC-11 from eastern Asia since 2012.

The UN had already hailed the success of the Protocol but the report said it was the first time that there were emerging indications that the Antarctic ozone hole had diminished in size and depth since 2000.

"I don't think we can do a victory lap until 2060", Newman said.