“Larger and Unusual” Hole in the Ozone Layer This Year

“Larger and Unusual” Hole in the Ozone Layer This Year
Photo by Pixabay

Katherine Willey

Environment and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Thursday 16th September 2021 marked the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer and 34 years since the adoption of the Montreal Protocol. However, celebrations were muted after the discovery of one of the largest holes in the ozone layer since 1979. 

The ozone layer begins approximately 15km above the earth’s surface and plays a vital role in preventing excessive UVB radiation from reaching our planet. According to the UN Environment programme (UNEP), this radiation causes skin cancer, harms marine life, damages agriculture and ecosystems and has the potential to significantly disrupt human life and livelihoods. The discovery of significant ozone depletion by scientists in 1985 caused considerable concern and led to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol (1987) which banned ozone depleting substances (ODSs). The agreement is widely considered to be one of the most successful examples of collective action in international environmental policy making, with 196 states and the EU ratifying it and phasing out 99% of ODSs thereby slowing global warming and preventing untold devastation.

However, while data shows that the ozone layer has been gradually recovering, both 2020 and 2021 saw larger and longer lasting holes than previous years, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMUS). These findings indicate that there is still a way to go before this issue can be considered resolved. This is partly because ODSs are yet to be completely phased out and partly because global warming has an ozone depleting effect. Thus, as temperatures continue to rise, larger and longer lasting holes in the ozone layer will become more frequent. To combat this and protect quality of life here on earth, governments and corporations must work harder to eradicate ODSs and limit any further rise in global temperatures. 


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