The topic of ozone depletion is age-old but still holds a huge momentum in the discussion gallery of and around environmental concerns. From science and environment school textbooks to the international councils and political forums, the ozone registers its importance, and rightly so!
Importance of Ozone
The thin blanket of ozone particles in the atmosphere of the earth is crucial as it absorbs the harmful ultraviolet(UV-B) radiations reaching the earth, which causes sunburn. Naked exposure to high levels of UV-B for a long period threatens human health and damages most animals, plants, and microbes, so the ozone layer protects all life on Earth.
Science behind the Ozone
The O3(ozone) molecule reacts with UV-B rays to form an O2 (oxygen)molecule which separates out from the layer. and a single O(nascent oxygen) atom which reacts with O2 and forms O3(ozone) again. It’s to be noted that other gases like nitrogen and hydrogen present in the stratosphere, participate in reactions that disrupt ozone production, converting it back into oxygen. So, these reactions decrease the amount of ozone in the stratosphere.
The “Ozone hole”: depletion of the layer
We humans did grave mistakes repeatedly which led to the depletion of this crucial layer. Scientists found out about a hole in the Ozone layer in 1980s, caused by the use of Halogens or Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) like:
- chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) widely used in air conditioners, refrigerators, aerosol cans, and in inhalers used by asthma patients
- hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
- computers, electronics and parts of our appliances were cleaned with ODSs.
- Fire protectants extensively used halogens
One chlorine atom can destroy up to 100,000 ozone molecules, imagine large amounts of chlorine and bromine acting up to degrade the delicate balance of the layer.
What is being done?
To prevent the grave consequences of ozone depletion the world’s governments adopted the Vienna Convention of 1985. Under the Convention’s Montreal Protocol, 99 percent of all ozone-depleting substances are to be cut down by governments, scientists, and all social stakeholders.
The Montreal Protocol, effective for its cause, helped heal the ozone layer which is expected to return to pre-1980 values by mid-century. The Kigali Amendment, which came into force in 2019, will work towards reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs), greenhouse gases with powerful climate-warming potential and damaging to the environment.
The World Ozone Day every year on September 16 celebrates and reverberates the importance of conservative practices, that should be used to help heal the Ozone Layer.
What can you do to help?
- Dispose of appliances and equipment with refrigerants responsibly.
- Set and avoid too low temperatures on the thermostat of your refrigerator and freezer.
- Switch equipment off when not in use as even a standby mode consumes energy.
- Clean the refrigerator regularly
- Put only necessary things in your freezer
- Mount the air conditioner condenser in the shadow outside.
- Keep rooms cool at night with ventilation, and incorporate fans. Using fans can reduce your need for extra cooling.
- Switch your car air conditioner on after you have been driving for a few minutes with windows open and park your car in the shadow.
A conscious effort from our side and the natural healing processes of the earth will help overcome even the gravest of dangers to the realm of the living. After all, the earth is the only planet for us to live and its conservation and protection is not something we should slack in!