Thirty years ago this May, scientists first described the Antarctic ozone hole in Nature. And for the discovery’s pearl anniversary, a new study in Nature Communications gives us a picture of the even more pockmarked atmosphere that would have occurred had we not taken swift action. Without the 1987 Montreal Protocol—an international treaty that phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other refrigerants, propellants, and aerosols that deplete atmospheric ozone—the Antarctic hole would have ballooned 40 percent by 2013. Meanwhile, the smaller hole over the Arctic would have grown enough to affect northern Europe, and the thinning of the ozone layer over the middle latitudes would have doubled.
The hole still has a long recovery ahead, since ozone-depleting substances tend to linger long past their welcome. Even so, Tuesday's study says the international effort helped prevent a whole lot of sunburns (along with skin cancer, cataracts, and crop damage). So when governments take science-backed action on a manmade atmospheric problem, we can avoid terrible consequences. Hmm, I wonder what other situation we could apply this lesson to…
This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.
The Particulars of PM 2.5
Protect Your Community from “Bomb Trains”
Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know