Success With Ozone Depletion Shows We Can Solve Tough Environmental Problems if We Trust the Science
A new UN-backed study, “Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2018,” released last week, found that the ozone layer continues to heal and projects that Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will be replenished by the 2030s, followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060. The ozone layer in the stratosphere protects us from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
The international community united in 1987 to address ozone depletion in the Montreal Protocol after scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in aerosols, refrigeration systems, and many other products were reducing the ozone layer. As the ozone layer broke down more ultraviolet radiation was reaching the earth and skin cancer rates skyrocketed.
The Montreal Protocol is now viewed as the most successful international environmental treaty in history because it saved lives around the world. A 2015 report by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the agreement prevented over 280 million cases of skin cancer, 1.5 million skin cancer deaths, and 45 million cataracts in the United States.
But the Protocol didn't come about without opposition, the same type of opposition that climate change science faces today. Ozone depletion was widely ridiculed by industrial producers of CFCs and their Republican allies in the US Congress. The chair of the board of DuPont was quoted as saying that ozone depletion theory is "a science fiction tale...a load of rubbish...utter nonsense" (Chemical Week, July 16, 1975). And in 1987, DuPont testified before the US Congress that "We believe there is no imminent crisis that demands unilateral regulation."
Today, the Montreal Protocol is hailed as a demonstration of what we can achieve when the international community follows the science and puts people above short-term economic interests. And it's viewed as inspiration for global efforts to combat climate change to halt a catastrophic rise in world temperatures.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, UN News: “It has shown us how environmental governance can respond to science, and how countries can come together to address a shared vulnerability,” said Mr. Guterres."
“I call for that same spirit of common cause and, especially, greater leadership as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and mobilize the ambitious climate action we so urgently need at this time,” he concluded."
Ozone depletion is not as complex as climate change, but, the Montreal Protocol reminds us that tough environmental challenges can be overcome.
Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
By: Don Lam & Curated Content