Finally, some good news about our troubled atmosphere: A UN study shows that the ozone layer is displaying early signs of thickening after years of depletion. It's on the road to recovery — an achievement that scientists say is due to political will.
Such is the conclusion of 300 scientists who summarized their findings in the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
"International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release. "This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change."
The ozone layer is a fragile layer of atmospheric gas that protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Back in 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed, leading countries to carry out policies to reduce and then phase-out their use of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as CFCs. (image: NASA)
According to the report, the absence of an agreement would have resulted in a tenfold increase of these chemicals by 2050.
"However, the challenges that we face are still huge. The success of the Montreal Protocol should encourage further action not only on the protection and recovery of the ozone layer but also on climate," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The scientists added that the situation with the ozone layer in the second half of the 21st century will largely depend on concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide – the three main long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Looking ahead, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a summit on September 23rd at UN Headquarters in New York in an effort to coordinate global action on climate change. Let's hope this latest development inspires the attendees to actually do something.