June 23, 2024

International efforts to protect the ozone layer have been a “huge global success”, scientists have said after revealing that harmful gases in the atmosphere are declining faster than expected.

The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, aimed to phase out ozone-depleting substances found mainly in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol sprays.

A study has found that atmospheric levels of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), harmful gases responsible for holes in the ozone layer, will peak in 2021 – five years ahead of projections.

“It was a huge global success. We see that things are going in the right direction,” said the study’s lead author, Luke Western from the University of Bristol.

The most harmful CFCs were phased out by 2010 in an effort to protect the ozone layer – the shield that protects life on Earth from harmful levels of ultraviolet rays from the Sun.

The HCFC chemicals they replaced are expected to be phased out by 2040.

the study room, published in the journal Nature Climate Changeexamined levels of these pollutants in the atmosphere using data from the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment and US National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

Western attributed the sharp decline in HCFCs to the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol, as well as stricter national regulations and a shift by industry in anticipation of the upcoming ban on these pollutants.

“In terms of environmental policy, there is some optimism that these environmental treaties can work if they are properly enacted and properly followed,” Western said.

Both CFCs and HCFCs are also potent greenhouse gases, meaning their reduction also helps in the fight against global warming.

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CFCs can last hundreds of years in the atmosphere, while HCFCs have a lifespan of about two decades, Western said.

Even if they are no longer in production, the past use of these products will continue to affect the ozone for years to come.

The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2023 that it could take four decades for the ozone layer to recover to levels before the hole was first detected in the 1980s.

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