It seems miraculous to hear anything positive about the environment and global warming, but this week the UN published a report that managed to make me feel like lugging all my glass bottles to the bottle bank has been worth it. The ozone layer is healing.
In the late 1990s, the ozone layer was found to have depleted by a worrying ten per cent, but the new findings revealed that since 2000 it has been increasing by up to three per cent per decade. It has been estimated that some parts of the Northern Hemisphere could be completely healed by the 2030s, while other areas could be repaired by the 2060s.
This seems almost unimaginable after the gaping holes in the ozone were only discovered in the 1980s. As a direct result of this, the Montreal agreement was established in 1987 and signed by one-hundred-and-eighty countries, aimed at reducing the global production of ozone-depleting substances used in products like aerosols, fridges and air conditioners.
The UN report is a reassuring sign that, when it comes to the environment, all hope is not completely lost. It comes at especially good timing just a month after the unquestionably bleak report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which stated that the Earth only has twelve years left to limit climate change. With the news that the phasing out of gases depleting the ozone layer could avoid global warming this century by as much as point five degrees, the planet’s future seems very slightly more hopeful.
Ultimately this shows that the Montreal agreement was undeniably successful in its sole aim of reducing the damage to the ozone layer. It is certainly also a good sign for the upcoming introduction of the Kigali Amendment to further drastically phase out climate-warming gases over the next thirty years. Hopefully, this can be used as an indicator of the powerful nature of such agreements and encourage more influential deals that’ll continue to produce visible change. Altering individual behaviour improves the amount of damage done to the Earth, but if we want to see a serious impact it’s clear that it will have to come from international pacts and restrictions.
So perhaps all of this means we can relax slightly and stop focusing so much on the negative? I’m not saying we are anywhere close to significantly improving climate change; this is just a small sign of encouragement. There’s still concern over some areas of the ozone not being repaired and there’s been a resurgence of one of the banned gases in China. This is an extremely alarming breach of one of the world’s most effective environmental treaties and it’s unclear what the Chinese government is doing to stop this.
It’s worrying to think that there is complacency about the Montreal agreement already setting in from one of the most polluting countries in the world. And it’s far too easy to imagine climate change deniers using UN’s report to fuel their fire. A collective global effort is the only way we will have any chance to even partially recover from the damage already done.
However, the UN’s report is definite proof that laws and united determination can go a long way to improve the environmental damage and hopefully the findings will encourage further international agreements. We have taken a major step forward, but we still have a long way to go.