Theme – Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On
The UN sponsored International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer is celebrated each year on September 16, to commemorate the date of signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The day was proclaimed as such by the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994. Building up public awareness through concerted publicity, all affiliated agencies celebrate the event by intensifying efforts to continue protecting the earth’s ozone layer.
Many schools and scientific institutes organize activities that focus on topics related to the ozone layer, climate change and ozone depletion. One can retrieve information and educational packages from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) site that caters to specifically tailored topics about the earth’s ozone layer. Other activities for the day include promotion of ozone friendly products and other special programs for saving the ozone layer.
So what exactly is ozone depletion? In simplest terms it is the wearing out or reduction of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere. Ozone depletion is pinned down to one major human activity. Industries that manufacture things like insulating foams, solvents, soaps, cooling things like Air Conditioners, Refrigerators and ‘Take-Away’ containers use something called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
CFCs are substances that are heavier than air but over time, from two to five years, they get carried high into the stratosphere by wind action. Depletion begins when CFC’s get into the stratosphere. Ultra violet radiation from the sun breaks up these CFCs. The breaking up action releases Chlorine atoms which then react with Ozone to start a chemical cycle that destroys the good ozone in that area. One chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 ozone molecules.
The good news is that the earth’s protective ozone layer is well on its way to recovery. This has mainly happened due to concerted international action against ozone depleting substances. The document entitled ‘Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014’ published by UNEP and WMO is a comprehensive update on the situation. The stratospheric ozone layer which is like a fragile shield of gas protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
The Montreal Protocol worked at reducing the atmospheric levels of ozone depleting substances. The awareness generated by environmental agencies throughout the world prevented the increase in health issues like skin cancer, damage to human eyes and immune systems and protected wildlife and agriculture as per UNEP. The world acted responsibly with manufacturing needs so as not to introduce more CFCs into the air.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Ozone Layer Protection: The Mission Goes On”. So far we have been successful in meeting some of the targets on phasing out ozone-depleting substances. This resulted in decline of the abundance of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere and the ozone layer is expected to recover around the middle of this century. Even so there remain some challenges to the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances. The theme therefore seeks to keep stakeholders energized on efforts to address the challenges.