The ozone layer, the shield between Earth and the sun’s harmful UV rays, is strengthening. A study of the ozone layer’s depletion over the last thirty years shows that the ozone layer is making a comeback due to the reduction of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), solvents found in aerosol spray cans and some older refrigerators. CFCs were internationally banned in the 1980s, with a 1987 Montreal study that only added to the growth of the international movement. In the same year, CFCs were banned, and substitutes were proposed to take its place worldwide.
Researchers have also noticed that the ozone layer hole over Antarctica, once growing, is now shrinking. The ozone layer has experienced some slight growth over the last few years and is showing signs of small growth in size. “Now for the first time in this report we say that we see indications of a small increase in total ozone. That means recovery of the ozone layer in terms of total ozone has just started,” said Geir Braathen, WMO Senior Scientific Officer.
Braathen also said that the major ozone layer shrinkage was on the decline in the 1990s and that we’ve not seen significant ozone layer hole growth since that time (over 20 years ago). “We think in about 2025, or thereabouts we’ll be able to say with certainty that the ozone hole is getting smaller,” Braathen said.
It will likely take a decade before the ozone layer hole shrinks significantly, but current efforts to suppress the use of CFCs will only add to the positive efforts to regrow the ozone layer. The international ban on CFCs in 1987 was said to prevent humans from skin cancer, cancer in general, as well as other life-threatening and fatal diseases. With the ozone layer growing and showing signs of life, humans may be spared from some of the most formidable illnesses humanity has ever seen.
Chemist Mario Molina believes that the ozone layer hole shrinkage can be attributed to human efforts to preserve the environment. “It’s a victory for diplomacy and for science and for the fact that we were able to work together.” While humanity hasn’t been as vigilant about the ozone layer prior to the 1980s as it has been after the same decade, the growth of the ozone layer and its return as Earth’s defender shows that a little human responsibility can go a long way.