Ozone Layer Still Thinning Above Earth's Biggest Cities Despite Evidence Atmosphere Was Healing

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 - 11:10AM
Science News
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 - 11:10AM
Ozone Layer Still Thinning Above Earth's Biggest Cities Despite Evidence Atmosphere Was Healing
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Image credit: YouTube

The ozone layer has been an important part of the discussion surrounding environmental conservationism and man-made climate change for decades.

Back in the '80s, world leaders held an important summit in which they took major steps to stop the destruction of this protective layer around the planet. It had transpired that the world's obsession with hairspray had become so great that it threatened our entire planet's wellbeing, and dramatic steps were taken to reduce the amount of lift and volume that Steve from Stranger Things was able to get from his Farrah Fawcett hair products.

Following a ban on the CFC chemicals that were causing the damage to the ozone layer (which admittedly were also found in other aerosols and car exhausts), the hole in the ozone layer stopped growing quite as quickly, and eventually even began healing.

Last year, it was announced that the hole in the ozone layer had shrunk to its smallest size in 30 years; an accomplishment that proves just what humanity can achieve when we come together and make smart decisions for the fate of the planet without throwing tantrums whenever we're forced to sacrifice big business earnings.

Unfortunately, though, things aren't necessarily looking as rosy as last year's report might suggest. While the hole in the ozone layer is slowly healing around the world as a whole, some troubling spots aren't showing any signs of recovery at all.

Wouldn't you know it, those danger zones are located directly above the most populated parts of the world. There's a surprise.

New research has found that central and tropical areas of the world (in other words, the places where the vast majority of the population resides) aren't enjoying the same ozone regeneration that the rest of the planet is blessed by.

According to William Ball of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich:

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"In tropical and middle latitudes, the ozone layer has not started to recover yet. It is, in fact, slightly worse today than 20 years ago."
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The frustrating thing is that it's not entirely clear why these areas of the world are still deteriorating where less populated parts of the planet are seeing their ozone regenerate. It's possible that this is caused by what's known as Very Short-Lived Substances (VSLS), which include paint-thinner, solvents, and the like.

These substances pose a short-term danger to the environment, lasting only around a year at the most, and as they're not banned by previous agreements, they've doubled in use over the past 30 years.

This would be the best-case scenario for the cause of the hole in the ozone layer, as VSLSs could simply be banned or regulated in much the same way as CFCs. It'd be harder to re-varnish your garden furniture, but the environment would thank you in the long run.

Far more troubling, though, is the possibility that this slow degradation of the ozone layer around populated areas is caused by something more permanently life-threatening: greenhouse gas related climate change.

If the new cause of ozone problems is our consumption of fossil fuels, it's going to take a lot more effort to convince the world's governments to reduce their carbon emissions to prevent catastrophe. For this and so many other reasons, we really, really need to stop polluting the planet.

At least the good news is that the hole in the ozone layer should heal up nicely once humanity has managed to wipe itself out.

Science News