Graphic by Nate Barton
The depletion of the ozone layer may just be the best thing to happen to the environment in the past half-century.
This is not because of the depletion itself, but rather the wake-up call it provided the American people. The legislation written to prevent further ozone depletion went on to accidentally be the most impactful climate change legislation to date.
This legislation, specifically The Montreal Protocol passed in 1987, has aided to ease the rapid rising of global temperatures because the chemicals that deplete the ozone layer—chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that are used in hairsprays, refrigerators, packing materials, etc.—are also proponents of climate change.
“The phase down in the use of CFCs during the 1990s into the early 21st century, which was solely intended to reverse the loss of Earth’s protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, has shaved nearly 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming since that time,” according to Ozone Treaty Accidentally Slowed Global Warming: Study by Andrew Freedman for Climate Central. “Considering that the world has warmed by an average of about 1.6 degrees F between 1901-2012, it is not a trivial amount.”
Freedman furthered that the treaties climate benefits proved to be a pleasant surprise.
“The Montreal Protocol was an effective climate treaty, albeit an accidental one,” Freedman wrote.
The atrophy of the ozone layer itself, although it has a bad effect on the environment in terms of radiation, slowed climate change by allowing heat that was trapped beneath the thick atmosphere to escape through the weakened ozone.
The depletion of the ozone layer was the first time the world opened its eyes to the possibility of human activity profoundly affecting the environment. Global leaders gathered, absorbed the evidence and came to a consensus that would battle a problem that had not yet gained traction—climate change.
This consensus, the Montreal Protocol, serves as a beautiful example of cooperation on a global scale, for the greater good of all nations.
Follow Judith-Daly Brister-Knabe on Twitter: @daly_brister