If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s and 80s, you’ll recall the general panic about the growing, humanity-made hole in the ozone layer.
Scientists found that certain chemicals used in spray cans and refrigeration pipes were depleting the thin layer of Earth’s atmosphere that helps shield us from ultraviolet radiation, which, among other things, is linked to skin cancer.
But you hardly ever hear about that problem any more… Why?
Because governments took action, and the fix is working.
A new UN report presents further proof of this long-term good-news story. It shows the ozone layer is gradually healing thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty that started a global phase-out on production of ozone-wrecking substances.
At its current pace, the hole over Antarctica could be gone in about 43 years.
That may seem like a long time, especially as the Montreal Protocol was agreed upon 35 years ago, in 1987, but as anyone who’s ever ended up in hospital after a bad accident can tell you: injury may be quick; healing takes ages.
Most importantly, the success story teaches us that humanity can rise to the challenge of global environmental problems caused by human activity. To those who doubt that governments can find the will to act on climate change – and to the governments who too often give them ammunition – it’s a powerful model.
Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization Petteri Taalas lands the summarizing sound bite on this good news story: “Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action.”
Just as the world responded to the science all those decades ago telling us that humanity’s actions were damaging our only home, we need to respond to climate science today and transition away as quickly as we can from fossil fuels.
We know it can be done.