Healthy ozone will help climate change


UN scientists draw conclusions on the complex link between the ozone layer and climate change.


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The ozone layer is no longer disappearing, which is also helping to avert climate change, say UN scientists.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director said that “action to protect the ozone layer has not only been a success, but continues to deliver multiple benefits to economies”.

A report, jointly published by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), is the first comprehensive update in four years. The 300-strong team of scientists that wrote and reviewed the report concluded that while the hole should be mostly fixed by 2048, it is not repairing itself yet, and the annual springtime hole over Antarctic won’t recover fully until 2073.

Nearly 100 aerosols, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and other substances that accelerate ozone damage, have been phased out as outlined in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is important for its role in absorbing dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays from the Sun.

Many substances that are harmful to the ozone are also greenhouse gases, and the report says that the phase out of chemicals has “provided substantial co-benefits by reducing climate change.”

“This represents a further potential area for action within the overall climate change challenge,” said Steiner regarding the reduction of ozone depleting substances. “An international group of modellers working with UNEP recently concluded that current commitments and pledges linked with the Copenhagen Accord are unlikely to keep a global temperature rise to under 2°C by 2050.”

“The gap between scientific reality and ambition is estimated to average around 4.7 Gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year – a gap that needs to be urgently bridged over the next decade or so if the 2°C target is to be met," said Steiner.

Worth consideration is that the reductions in emissions of ozone-depleting substances are five times the 2008-2012 targets of the greenhouse emissions treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.

“The ozone-hole issue demonstrates the importance of long-term atmospheric monitoring and research, without which ozone destruction would have continued unabated and might not have been detected until more serious damage was evident,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“Human activities will continue to change the composition of the atmosphere. WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch programme will therefore continue its crucial monitoring, research and assessment activities to provide scientific data needed to understand and ultimately predict environmental changes on both regional and global scales,” said Mr Jarraud.

For more information, visit the website of the ozone secretariat at UNEP here.