The 1980s were among the most turbulent eras in history. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 changed the course of history and signaled the beginning of a new era. However, two years earlier, a crucial but less well-known event of that decade occurred when governments banded together to stop ozone layer depletion and guarantee that humans had a sustainable future to reshape.
The incredible narrative of the battle to save the ozone layer begins with science.
Scientists issued a warning about the ozone layer's depletion in the middle of the 1970s due to man-made compounds included in common household items including aerosols, foams, refrigerators, and air conditioners. They were unaware of the scope of the issue at the time. However, a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was identified in 1985. The natural solar screen that shields the planet from excessive UV radiation and safeguards people, plants, animals, and ecosystems had been breached.
A future marred by skin cancer, cataracts, failing plants and crops, and ruined ecosystems appeared all of a sudden. Time was of the essence. The world heeded the warning from scientists.
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was adopted by nations in 1985, and it created the framework for the Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-depleting compounds, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
World Ozone Day is celebrated on 16th September each year to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is a part of the atmosphere that has high concentrations of ozone, compared to oxygen molecules that exist in nature as a pair of oxygen atoms. It exists 10-40 km above the surface of the earth in a region called the stratosphere and contains 90% of all the ozone in the atmosphere. Depletion of the ozone layer has an adverse effect on our environment, the most visible one being global warming. The ozone layer serves many purposes :
Absorbs a range of ultraviolet energy
Ozone molecule absorbs even low-energy ultraviolet radiation.
Splits into an ordinary oxygen molecule and a free oxygen atom.
Free oxygen atom quickly re-joins with an oxygen molecule to form another ozone molecule
Ozone-oxygen cycle converts harmful UV radiation into heat and acts as a shield
The weakening ozone layer causes skin cancer, and cataracts and impairs immune systems.
Further, there are two types of Ozone, i.e., Good Ozone and Bad Ozone. Good ozone, also known as stratospheric ozone, develops naturally in the upper atmosphere where it creates a barrier that protects us from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays. A "hole in the ozone" is what is sometimes referred to as the result of man-made substances partially destroying this beneficial ozone.
Tropospheric Bad ozone or ground-level ozone is generated by chemical interactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic molecules (VOC). When sunlight is present, pollutants released from factories, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, and other sources undergo chemical reactions. Because of its negative effects on both people and the environment, ozone is a dangerous air pollutant at ground level and the primary component of "smog." Even in remote regions, high ozone levels are possible due to the wind's ability to transport ozone across great distances.
Last year on the occasion of 27th Global Ozone Day, the Environmental Ministry of India declared that India has successfully phased out the production and consumption of several major ozone depleting substances. The country met all obligations of the Montreal Protocol by accessing technical and financial assistance from the mechanism of the Protocol.
India has phased out chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, halons, methyl bromide, and methyl chloroform for controlled uses in line with the Montreal Protocol. Currently, hydrochlorofluorocarbons are being phased out as per the accelerated schedule of the Montreal Protocol. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-I has been successfully implemented from 2012 to 2016 and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons Phase-out Management Plan (HPMP) Stage-II is currently.
The action plan for implementing recommendations of the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) for thematic area space cooling in buildings has also been released. The ICAP, first-of-its-kind in the world to be developed by the environment ministry, addresses cooling requirements across sectors and lists out actions that can help reduce the cooling demand through synergies in actions for securing both environmental and socio-economic benefits. The ICAP aims to reduce both direct and indirect emissions.
The Montreal Protocol has produced remarkable achievements. The protective layer above Earth is being renewed and ozone-depleting compounds have been phased out to a level of about 99 percent. By the 2060s, the Antarctic ozone hole is anticipated to be closed, and some places will revert to pre-1980s levels even sooner. Due to the fact that many of the ozone-depleting chemicals also contribute to rising global temperatures, an estimated two million people are prevented from developing skin cancer each year.
Another advantageous side effect of the decrease in ozone-depleting chemicals. Ozone-depleting compounds are powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to the phenomena in the same way that methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, which are all known to have a greenhouse influence, do (N2O). Therefore, the Montreal Protocol has both preserved the ozone layer and the climate by limiting emissions of compounds that deplete the ozone layer.
Furthermore, there are mixed results on the decrease in ODS emissions. In reality, it has inadvertently brought forward new issues. Fluorinated gases (F-gases) have been offered as ODS replacements in a variety of industries, including air conditioning and refrigeration. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride are examples of F-gases (SF6). Although they are greenhouse gases, these gases do not harm the ozone layer. And to make matters worse, compared to "conventional" greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, these F-gases frequently have a much greater impact on the climate (CO2). Because of the growing significance of F-gas emissions, the Montreal Protocol's substantial contribution to combating climate change is in danger of being lost.
Currently, 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from F-gases. A number of nations have begun to take action against F-gases. Businesses are currently seeking for alternatives to replace them. In recent years, substitutes have been available for a number of uses, including refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, and aerosols, that do not harm the ozone layer or contribute to climate change. Numerous of these alternatives result in increased energy efficiency as well, which is crucial because indirect emissions from energy use over the course of a product's lifecycle are frequently far larger than direct emissions of F-gases.
The world ultimately found responses with beneficial results in response to grave dangers to the earth's delicate atmosphere. The ozone layer is recovering. That's important to keep in mind while we attempt, frequently in a hopeless manner, to establish consensus in the fight against climate change.