Every year since 2001, the United Nations celebrate World Ozone Day as an occasion to remind the world of the significance and importance of the Ozone Layer. The theme for World Ozone Day, 2019 is “32 Years and Healing” celebrates the healing of the layer, since the use of ozone-depleting chemicals got banned from use in electronic appliances.
The ozone layer is a fragile layer of Ozone gas, (Oxygen Compound, O3), which envelopes the earth’s at 2nd level of the atmosphere, Stratosphere. The layer contains a higher density of Ozone gas as compared to other layers of the atmosphere (10 parts per million in Stratosphere as compared to 0.3 parts per million in other parts). This layer is responsible for saving the earth from the sun’s harmful ultra-violet radiations.
These biologically harmful Ultra-violet radiations have wave-lengths. UV rays of 10-100 nm get screened out by nitrogen present in the atmosphere. However, UV-A (400-315 nm), UV-B (315-280nm) & UV-C (280-100nm) have to be dealt with separately. The combination of di-oxygen and ozone screens out UV-C completely. Further, the Ozone layer eliminates the chances of UV-B reaching the earth to a major extent. However, still, some UV-B radiations reach the grounds causing sunburn and skin problems. Although it is also responsible for producing Vitamin-D with skin. The UV-A radiations reach the earth because Ozone is transparent to them. These radiations are responsible for physical damage, premature ageing of the skin, indirect genetic damage, and skin cancer. This is how Ozone plays a vital role in saving life on earth from the harmful radiations of the sun.
In the late 1970s two events were observed in the Ozone layer, viz a steady lowering of about 4% of the Ozone present in the Ozone layer and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone around Earth’s polar region. The second phenomenon is well-known by the name “Ozone Hole”.
After the study, it was discovered that ozone depletion and the ozone hole were the result of phenomenon, caused due to manufactured chemicals including halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants and foam blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro-fluorocarbons HCFCs, halons) etc. These substances were collectively named as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The ODS was being transported into the atmosphere due to emissions from refrigerators, air-conditioners, factory effluents etc. The ODS was being released at a rate faster than their settlement pace. As a result, the process of photo-dissociation started taking place which released halogen atoms. This catalyzed ozone (O3) into oxygen (O2).
As a result, on 26th August 1987, the production and use of ODS were banned and prohibited by the world governments to save the Ozone layer from depleting through the Montreal Protocol. It is an international treaty designed by the 197 countries’ governments, agreed and signed by member nations to protect the Ozone layer from depleting and phasing out the production of numerous substances responsible for Ozone Layer Depletion. Between the year 1989 to 2000, these 197 countries/ group of countries, agreed to the treaty and enforces its implementation as it is or through some ratifications.
This phase-out ozone-depleting substances & enforcement of laws for their controlled uses has caused related reductions and helped protect the ozone layer for current and future generations. Not only this, but it has also contributed significantly to global efforts in addressing the problem of climate change. Apart from this, it is highly responsible for the protection of human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth.
The theme for ‘World Ozone Day’ for the year 2019, ‘32 Years and Healing’ celebrates over three decades of reduction in CFCs & HFCs in the atmosphere. This could be achieved through international cooperation aimed at protecting the ozone layer and prevent climate change with the Montreal Protocol. The protocol has played a significant role in phasing out 99% of Ozone-Depleting chemicals through banning of the substances to be used in refrigerators, air-conditioners and other cooling systems and products.
As a result, on 19th December 2000, United Nations General Assembly designated 16th September 2000 to be celebrated as World Ozone Day.
On the occasion of World Ozone Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “As we rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change, we must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer and stay alert to the threat posed by the illegal use of ozone-depleting gases. The recent detection of emissions of one such gas, CFC-11, reminds us that we need continued monitoring and reporting systems, and improved regulations and enforcement.”
This means that even after so many efforts by the people and governments from around the world, there are still changes which have led to the emissions crossing the red marks on the ODS threshold.
On January 1, 2019, there was a modification made to the Montreal Protocol, known as Kigali Amendment. The amendment is focused on phasing down Hydro-Fluoro-Carbons (HFCs) by higher extents as they are potent climate-warming gases and pose a severe threat to the atmosphere’s health.
This is why, on every year, United Nations celebrates World Ozone Day on 16th September 2019 & urges the world citizens to show support the Montreal Protocol. From this year onwards, UN is focusing to promote the agenda of Kigali Amendment of Montreal Protocol and spreading awareness about how the world can avoid up to 0.4 degree Celsius of global temperature rise by the end of the century while continuing to protect the ozone layer.
We as a Global citizen should understand our responsibility of saving the earth. Ozone depletion has played a significant role in the rising temperature of the earth and escalating climate change factors. If anyone of us is using ODS enabled substances, we should drop them right away. Further, if we find people around us adopting anti-environment activities, we should advise them to change their habits by imparting eco-friendly information and need to save the environment.
Not only ODS, but many other factors also play a vital role in ozone depletion, global warming, & climate change. We must focus on them and adopt eco-friendly activities.