This year, the world is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on 'Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.'
The pact was signed on 16 September 1987 and every year, the 'International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer' commemorates the momentous occasion.
The Montreal Protocol remains the first treaty in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification and brought together over 197 countries to collectively agree to protect the stratospheric ozone layer and phase out the production and consumption of Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS).
The Amount of Ozone in the Atmosphere Varies
The treaty was a historic, proactive step because ozone molecules in the stratosphere create a shield to protect the biological processes necessary for the survival of life and without this barrier, our ecosystem would perish.
By blocking ultraviolet radiation with wavelengths between 315 and 280 nanometers, which can be lethal in large doses, the ozone layer has aided the evolution of life on Earth and facilitated organisms to thrive.
Though the amount of ozone in the stratosphere naturally varies throughout the year, disruptive human activities have led to the formation of a hole, which is an area of abnormally low ozone, in the ozone layer.
Montreal Protocol Has Led to Tremendous Improvement
The Montreal Protocol sought to rectify this problem before it was too late but recently, scientists have also reported another large ozone hole in the lower stratosphere over the tropics that can potentially affect 50 percent of the world’s population.
Qing-Bin Lu, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, also warned that if unattended, this new hole could have disastrous ramifications for life on the planet.
The clear and present danger is that if the ozone layer deteriorates further, a significant amount of UV rays will permeate the Earth and will put populations close to the equator in danger.
Stable temperatures in the polar and tropical regions are also dependent on the health of the ozone layer. If stratospheric ozone levels continue to decline, this could have a cataclysmic effect on ecosystems and human health.
Increased UV exposure also increases the risk of cataracts, skin cancer, and a weakened immune system. The depleted ozone layer also affects how plants grow and function physiologically.
The health of plants and their biogeochemical cycles are impacted by changes in plant structure, nutrient distribution within the plant, and the timing of developmental phases; all of which is connected with a healthy and stable environment.
So, are things as grim as they seem? Well, since the Montreal Protocol, there has been a tremendous improvement.
Thanks to the cumulative steps taken, a section of the ozone layer has recovered since 2000 at a rate of 1-3 percent every decade, according to the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion.
The Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone are anticipated to fully recover by the 2030s.
How Can We Help the Planet?
As for the tropical ozone hole, research is being undertaken to learn more about it. However the success of the Montreal Protocol should encourage us to avoid creating more situations that we cannot rectify well in time.
It is essential that we be mindful of our decisions and the way they affect our environment.
We should also make an effort to learn more about ODS like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, and halons that are discharged into the atmosphere by irresponsible practices and industrial processes.
So, how can we help the planet ? By minimising the use of cars and opting for carpooling or cycling when required. We can stop using cleaning products that contain corrosive and solvent-based ingredients and instead switch to non-toxic alternatives like vinegar or bicarbonate.
Additionally, it's critical to constantly maintain our air conditioners since if they break down, CFC could escape into the atmosphere.
In addition to making these small changes at home, we also need to remember that trees play an excellent role in preventing the depletion of the ozone layer.
Toxic substances are absorbed by trees through their stomata or pores, which efficiently filter the air on our behalf. Trees also lower ground-level ozone levels and provide life-giving oxygen, which helps to offset the greenhouse gas effect.
Planting Trees Is the Simplest Way To Reduce CO2 in the Atmosphere
The global phenomenon of climate change is staring us in the face, and its repercussions are becoming more visible by the day.
The simplest and easiest way to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is by planting trees as they function as efficient carbon sinks.
Only by acknowledging our responsibility towards the environment and its inhabitants can we solve the challenges of environmental degradation and ecological imbalance. The environment belongs to our flora and fauna as much as it belongs to us.
Our disregard for the environment has resulted in problems like ozone depletion, climate change, and global warming.
The irony is that even after extreme weather events, terrifying natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not really learnt to be responsible citizens of the Earth. The question begging for an answer is if we will ever understand the fundamental value of coexisting with Nature?
The ozone hole is just an example of how we are depleting the most critical life-sustaining systems on which our existence depends.
"By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no planet B."Emmanuel Macron, the president of France
(Bikrant Tiwary is the first CEO of Grow-Trees.com and the former National Head of GiveIndia, the largest philanthropic online platform.)
(This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)