Today we almost never hear about the Ozone layer but about thirty years ago, people were increasingly concerned about its depletion. The Ozone in the stratosphere helps shield the Earth from UV radiation. UV radiation is emitted by the sun and creates a greenhouse effect. If not shielded correctly, the aftermath of receiving too much radiation are for example: severe sunburns, cancer, immune system problems, global warming and acute change in weather. What happened to this terrible threat that had people from around the world so worried?
When the problem first made headlines there was a great deal of skepticism similar to current headlines about climate change. “Industry Doubts threat to Ozone” ran one headline in the mid-seventies, followed by “Scientist Doubts Spray Cans Imperil Ozone Layer” and then “Aerosol Spray Ban Rejected by Agency”. But years later the US government was launching satellites to analyze the ozone layer and conducting experiments, and a decade later headlines full of doubt were replaced with ones like “Low Ozone Layer Below Antarctica” and “Global Effort Urged for Ozone”
So what happened?
In the 1970’s, the international community began to take measures like the ratification of the UNEP World Plan of Action for the Ozone Layer (1977) and a decade later significant changes were instituted via the Montreal Protocol on September 16, 1987 which put limits and phased out the use of chlorofluorocarbons. This did not come about easily, then as now, skeptics continued to question whether the ozone layer was really being depleted, whether it was serious, and whether it was caused by human actions, and if anything could be done about it.
Yes, the naysayers sound remarkably like those who question the reality and importance climate change. The arguments that mitigating climate change is too costly, that it might not work, that it might not be caused by human actions, that involves too much regulation and fetters the freedom of industry are the same arguments. But what happened then can happen now if we insist that our governments act to protect our rainforests and our climate.
It Can Be Done!
The original goal was to stop the hole in the Ozone from enlarging by decreasing harmful chemicals that escaped into our atmosphere. the Montreal Protocol made this happen. But that is not the only thing that happened, while we knew the ozone layer was not getting lager it was not until this years’ investigation that it became clear the ozone layer could regenerate and we saw evidence of the planet healing itself.
Collective measures for a quick recovery, proved effective. As Professor Susan Solomon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says “We decided collectively, as a world, ‘Let’s get rid of these molecules’. We got rid of them, and now we’re seeing the planet respond.”
Can we take collective measures to protect ourselves from the worst effects of climate change? Yes, there are still people who insist it’s not happening, that its happening but humans aren’t causing it, that it doesn’t really matter, or that there is nothing we can do about it.
But just like in 1986 we know there are many things we can do: we can insist on tighter limits for CO2–funding alternate forms of energy, we can investigate new technologies to trap carbon out of the air, and we can protect and heal our rainforests. The destruction of our Rainforests is not only a major cause of climate change, protecting them increases our planet’s ability to trap carbon that is already in the atmosphere.
By speaking out against deforestation, funding rainforest protection, and holding governments accountable, we can turn this story into the next success story. The solution is in your hands.