Ozone Makes a Comeback



By Deborah Snoonian



THE GOOD NEWS:
In May, researchers reported in the journal Nature that ozone levels in the atmosphere have stabilized—and even increased slightly—in some regions in the past 10 years. The news comes after many previous years of ozone degradation due to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere.

WHY WE CARE:

Sure, sunburn sucks. So does skin cancer. But excessive UV rays can also cause genetic damage to humans, plants, and animals. The ozone layer absorbs the most harmful UV rays, cushioning us against these ills.

WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK?
Thankfully, more than 180 countries (including the U.S. and the European Union) have signed the Montreal Protocol, the international ban on CFCs and ozone-depleting substances, since it was ratified in 1987. But these chemicals aren’t completely out of the picture; the ban doesn’t go into effect until 2010 in developing nations such as China, Mexico, India, and Russia, and there’s still a thriving black market for CFC-based substances like refrigerants. Scientists also say that restoring the full health of the ozone layer will take decades, and that it may never return to its pre-CFC levels.

THE PLENTY TAKEAWAY:
Keep wearing sunscreen, but the facts here speak loud and clear—these international bans work. Do we need any further proof that a similar pact to curb global warming is a good idea?

Issue 25



Sign up for Plenty's Weekly Newsletter