Did you know human activity has damaged areas in the protective ozone layer? In 1987, all countries adopted the Montreal Protocol, which was a global reduction of manmade chemicals that reacted with ozone. The Montreal Protocol is arguably the most successful international treaty today. Even with a great reduction in ozone depletion, it is still a planetary issue as low level ozone depletion is on the rise.
Layers of Protection:
The atmosphere of the earth is composed of several layers. Humans reside in the troposphere, which reaches 6 miles in altitude. Within this layer, ground-level ozone can form through chemical reactions between local air pollutants such as nitrous oxides, volatile organic compounds and sunlight. Next is the stratosphere, reaching from 6 to 31 miles. This area holds the most atmospheric ozone, typically between 9-15 miles in altitude. The ozone layer in the stratosphere absorbs a portion of the radiation from the sun, preventing it from reaching the planet’s surface. Ozone in the stratosphere plays a very different role to that in the layer below. The next layer is the ozone layer, which plays a crucial role in absorbing potentially dangerous ultraviolet UV-B radiation from the sun. The ozone layer typically absorbs 97-99% of incoming UV-B radiation, making this layer critical to protect. Let’s take a look at the current facts on the ozone layer.
- The “hole” that was discovered in Antarctica was over 11 million square miles.
- The culprit in the 1980s was CFC – chlorofluorocarbon and HCFC – hydro-chlorofluorocarbon which are greenhouse gases. CFC was being used in refrigerants and cooling units, fire extinguishers and aerosols.
- It takes decades to cleanse CFCs and other ozone depleting substances from the atmosphere, so even after the Montreal Protocol went into effect, their concentrations did not peak until around 1998 and are still high.
- Although ozone concentrations were increasing in the upper stratosphere, they are still declining in the lower stratosphere.
- Very short-lived gases produced from human activities can deplete the ozone layer, as well as change atmospheric circulation causing climate change.
- Global Ozone is expected to revert to its 1980 thickness in the next 55 years.
- Further depletion of the ozone layer can make the Earth barren.
How can I make an impact:
Action 1: Global Goodness
- Minimize your driving. Lower level ozone depletion is caused by car fumes. Driving less will automatically reduce the amount of ozone in the air.
- Do not use cleaning products that are harmful to the environment and people. Many cleaning products contain solvents and substances that are corrosive, replace these dangerous substances with non-toxic products such as vinegar or bicarbonate – this can help with low level ozone depletion.
Action 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1
- Buy local. You not only get local fresh products, but you avoid consuming items that have traveled long distances. The more distance products travel, the more nitrous oxide is produced.
- Avoid the consumption of gases dangerous to the ozone layer. The most dangerous gases are CFCs and nitrous oxide. Check your products to ensure they don’t release these gases.
Action 3: Earth Angel
- All of Action 1 & 2
- Maintain your air conditioner. Malfunctioning air conditioners cause CFC to escape into the atmosphere.
- Dispose of old air conditioners and refrigerators properly as older models used CFCs. Newer models should be CFC-free, but do your research to confirm.
- Buy wood or wood products that are not treated with methyl bromide as they give off bromine gas which enters the stratosphere – look for the MB mark and avoid it.