The ozone layer, the delicate shield of gas, protects our planet from a large number of harmful radiations. The layer stops harmful UV radiation which creates the condition favorable for creating and preservation of life. There was a time when the ozone layer was under threat, due to excessive CFCs which caused its depletion. But stronger legislation forced corporations and individuals to reduce the emission of such gases and it helped the ozone layer to recover. These efforts also helped in mitigating the effects of climate change. Human health also improved due to lesser UV rays and lesser emissions.
Composition of Ozone
Ozone is a gas that has the chemical formula O3 (composed of 3 oxygen atoms). Earth's atmosphere has trace amounts (very small) of ozone which is present naturally in the stratosphere (upper atmosphere). At lower levels (near the earth's surface), ozone is created chemically due to reactions between the pollutants in the air. These pollutants are vehicular exhausts, gasoline vapors, etc. At this level, ozone is extremely toxic for humans and plants.
90% of all the ozone present in the atmosphere resides in the stratosphere. There is a balance formed for the creations of the perfect amount of it. Sunlight creates the ozone, and chemical reactions destroy it. The oxygen(O2) we breathe is split into two atoms when sunlight falls on it. This single oxygen is very reactive and reacts with other oxygen atoms and forms ozone (O+O2=O3). Chemicals containing nitrogen, chlorine, bromine, hydrogen, etc react with ozone and breaks it down, destroying it. The mass of the ozone in total is around 3 billion metric tons, and it is only 0.00006% of the atmosphere.
World Ozone Day
In 1994, UN General Assembly declared 16th September as International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer in remembrance of the Montreal Protocol on Substance that Depletes Ozone Layer, 1987. This year's theme is- Ozone for Life: 35 Years of Ozone Layer protection. This year we are also celebrating 35 years of Vienna Conventions. Scientists in the late 1970s discovered the hole that was created in the ozone layer due to human activities. The use of aerosols, refrigerators, air conditioners, were reacting with the zone layer and causing its destruction. This hole then increased the potential of skin cancers, cataracts, etc caused due to excessive UV rays. Hence Vienna conventional for protection of the ozone layer was adopted. The ozone layer healded after that and the UV Rays concentration has been reduced.
In support of this protocol, the Kigali Amendment was adopted in the year 2019. The aim of this was to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These two gases are one of the most damaging gases to the environment, and they cause global warming and climate change.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, economies are facing lots of hardship, but the parties involved in the protection of ozone are still working together. Their slogan, 'Ozone for Life', truly depicts the dependency of life forms on the ozone layer for their existence.
How can We Protect the Ozone Layer?
Every individual has a role to play when it comes to the protection of the environment and saving the planet when problems such as climate change are at our doorstep. The following are a few ways we can try to protect the planet and reduce our carbon footprint as well.
Use your car less, bike and walk more: Vehicular exhausts are devils when it comes to the environment. Try to use a bicycle more often, or use public transport. If you can afford, switch to electric vehicles. If you have markets at a walkable distance, then walk. Walking will not only save you fuel (money), but you will be able to burn that extra calories.
Fridge and ACs: Refrigerators and air conditioners produce CFCs. While it is difficult to avoid both in hot and humid countries like India, Brazil, reduced usage can be extremely useful. Using AC an hour less for a year will save dozens of CFCs from getting into the atmosphere. Try to buy Air conditioners which do not use HFCs as a refrigerant. Regularly inspect your AC and fridge to keep a check on the emission levels, and reduce refrigerant leakage.
Buy local products: You not only have less distance to travel, but you will also enjoy the freshness of the products. Supporting your local business will help in the overall development of your town as well.
Reduce your overall carbon footprint: The ozone layer depletion is caused by the chemical reactions of all the pollutants that are there in the atmosphere. Hence reducing carbon emission is another great way to prevent that. Check here how you can reduce your carbon emission with some simple steps- https://www.projecthelpngo.org/post/reduce-your-carbon-footprint
Educate your peers, and family: The importance of education can not be explained in any way. The more people know about the harmful effects of emissions, the easier it is for global organizations and partners to form plans for tackling the problem. Teach your family today about the devastating effects of frequent car trips, and help them switch to renewable and sustainable sources.
Author: Subhasri Banerjee
Statistics: Ozone Watch
Subscribe below to receive a weekly newsletter.