The ozone layer is a fragile shield of gas that protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet.
The reduction of uses of ozone depleting substances and the related reductions have helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations. This has also contributed significantly to global efforts to address climate change.
It has also protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth. This is to be remembered on World Ozone Day
World Ozone Day And Ozone Layer Protection
We know we all need sunlight. But the energy from the sun is too much for the earth to bear if we didn’t have the ozone layer.
This layer shields Earth from most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. We need both ozone and the sunlight to make as we know it possible.
When scientists working in the late 1970s discovered that humanity was causing a hole in this layer, they raised the alarm. The hole was due to chemicals used in aerosols and cooling, such as refrigerators and air-conditioner.
This was threatening as it also causes skin cancer and cataracts, and damages plants, crops, and ecosystems.
As Carl Sagan says in his book, “The hole in the ozone layer is a kind of skywriting. At first it seemed to spell out our continuing complacency before a witch’s brew of deadly perils. But perhaps it really tells of a newfound talent to work together to protect the global environment.”
The global response was immediate. They met many times and formed many protocols that tried to minimise damage to this layer.
This year even with the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought such social and economic hardship, the ozone treaties’ message of working together in harmony and for the collective good is more important than ever.
The slogan of the day, ‘Ozone for life’, tells us that not only is ozone crucial for life on Earth, but that we must continue to protect the ozone layer for future generations.
As Eden Robinson says, I think we learn slowly as a group, but we learn. The ozone layer is still there.”
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Background Of The World Ozone Day
A number of chemicals have been found to be extremely damaging to the ozone layer. Some chemicals that are are linked to one or more halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine) are most dangerous.
Those that contain bromine were found to have much higher ozone-depleting potential (ODP) than those containing chlorine.
All this was noted and studied upon seriously by all and this led to many more agreements and studies.
Vienna Convention And The Protection Of The Ozone Layer
The scientists together agreed on avoiding the depletion of the ozone layer applying whatever knowledge they had.
As this was a common problem to all, everyone needed to be on board. This resulted in the formation of an international community to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take action to protect the ozone layer.
This committee came together in Vienna in 1985. After this, the agreement was adopted and signed by 28 countries, on 22 March 1985.
After this was put together, in September 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was drafted.
The aim of this protocol was to protect the ozone layer by taking appropriate measures. This included total global production and consumption of substances that deplete it, with the ultimate objective of their elimination on the basis of developments in scientific knowledge and technological information.
It mentions several groups of ozone-depleting substances. These chemicals are classified according to the chemical family and are listed in annexes to the Montreal Protocol text. This requires the control of nearly 100 chemicals, in several categories.
For each group or annex of chemicals, there is a timetable for the phase-out of production and consumption of those substances, with the aim of eventually eliminating them completely. It was set out after a lot of thought.
The timetable set here applies to consumption of ozone depleting substances. This is defined as the quantities produced plus imported, less those quantities exported in any given year.
There is also a deduction when there is verified destruction of the substances that cause this damage.
It does not forbid the use of existing or recycled controlled substances beyond the phase-out dates. This has been done to make it easier to implement for all.
There are some exceptions for essential uses where there is no choice. For example, no acceptable substitutes have been found, in metered dose inhalers (MDI) commonly used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems or halon fire-suppression systems that are used in submarines and aircraft.
After all of this, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in 1984.
This was to remember the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
After this, the people involved in the Montreal Protocol on Substances agreed on 15 October 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
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Universal Ratification Of All Protocols And The Word Ozone Day
Implementation of all these protocols progressed well in developed and developing countries. This was the first phase of the World Ozone Day
On 16th September 2009, the Ozone Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification.
This resulted in the establishment of the World Ozone Day. After all, we have only one planet, don’t we? It is time we took it more seriously and honour it with reverence.
We have already made a lot of mistakes. Let us not continue doing this. We now know what we should and we should not do.
The time now is for implement this everywhere. Let us all being doing this not just on World Ozone Day but on all days henceforward.