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Saving the Ozone Layer 30 Years Ago Slowed Global Warming. Can Similar Cooperation Now Solve the Climate Crisis?
The Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international treaty prohibiting the production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to save the ozone layer, was the first successful multilateral agreement to successfully slow the rate of global warming, according to new research. Now, experts argue that similar measures may lend hope to the climate crisis.
After decades of thinning, Earth's ozone layer is slowing recovering, the United Nations (UN) said in a report released Monday, highlighting how international co-operation can help tackle major environmental issues.
The ozone layer, which protects humans and other species from the sun's highly hazardous ultraviolet radiation, has been declining since the 1970s due to the effect of chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and similar gases found in refrigerants and aerosol spray cans.
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A new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows an "unexpected and persistent increase" in global emissions of an ozone-depleting chemical even though an international treaty forced production to completely halt by 2010.
NOAA scientists suggest that emissions are most likely from new, unreported production from an unidentified source in eastern Asia.
As the 2018 climate talks kick off under the auspices of the UN next week, "business unusual" must be the mantra delegations need heard resoundingly in Bonn, said the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF's global climate and energy programme leader, said the window of opportunity to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C is fast closing.
By Jake Johnson
Hailed as an example of how concerted global action can help solve a planetary crisis, a new study conducted by NASA scientists documented the first direct evidence that an international effort to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has led to the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole.
By David Doniger and Alex Hillbrand
This is a big year for the Montreal Protocol—the 30th anniversary of the world's most successful environmental protection agreement.
Every country on Earth is a party to this treaty, which has prevented catastrophic destruction of the ozone layer that protects us from the sun's dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Phasing out ozone-destroying chemicals has also provided a huge climate protection side-benefit, because many of those chemicals are also powerful heat-trapping agents. Countries took climate protection a step farther by adopting the Kigali Amendment to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in October 2016.
Under the new amendment to the Montreal Protocol, developed countries will begin phasing down HFCs in 2019, while developing countries have two different timelines. More than 100 countries will start their HFC phase down in 2024, and a handful of countries, including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states, will start in 2028.
"This is great news for the climate. It sends a powerful signal that our governments are serious about tackling climate change, coming as it does on the heels of the ratification of the Paris Agreement, a new deal to cap aviation emissions and just weeks before UN climate talks resume," Regine Guenther, interim leader of WWF's Global Climate and Energy Practice, said. "Our path to action is clear and we now need to see the promises of these agreements realized in urgent actions on the ground."
"This is a major breakthrough: The world has come together to curb climate-wrecking super-pollutant HFCs," David Doniger, NRDC's Climate and Clean Air program director, said. "This is the biggest step we can take in the year after the Paris agreement against the widening threats from climate change. And bringing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol sends a clear signal to the global marketplace to start replacing these dangerous chemicals with a new generation of climate-friendly and energy-efficient alternatives."
For a deeper dive:
Commentary: Kigali New Times editorial; Guardian, John Vidal column; Reuters, Alister Doyle analysis; Mashable, Andrew Freedman analysis; Vox, Brad Plumer column; Wall Street Journal, Daniela Hernandez analysis; The Nation editorial