Who Says We Can't Fix Things? We Are Closing the Ozone Hole!

CC BY 2.0. Jim Rosebery on Flickr

Collective and individual actions can change the world.

Someday we should build a giant new Fridgehenge as a monument to one of humanity's great achievements; As Melissa wrote earlier this year, the Ozone hole is officially shrinking, proof that international treaties can be effective. That's because the ozone-eating refrigerants in those fridges were banned, due to the Montreal protocol signed back in 1987, which was "apparently,back when everyone still believed in science and chemical companies had less power."

Now a new four-year assessment of the health of ozone layer has been completed, and according to Fiona Harvey of the Guardian, it represents "a rare instance of global environmental damage being repaired, and a victory for concerted global action by governments."

Ozone Hole

© Getty Images/ Nasa

If the current rate of recovery of about 1 percent to 3 percent per decade continues, then the northern hole could be closed completely by 2030 and the southern by 2060.

“The Montreal protocol is one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history for a reason,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “The careful mix of authoritative science and collaborative action that has defined the protocol for more than 30 years and was set to heal our ozone layer is precisely why the Kigali amendment holds such promise for climate action in future.”

It is not going to be all smooth sailing. There is some concern that Donald Trump will not sign the Kilgali amendment, because his advisors like cheap refrigerants and don't believe in global warming, so don't worry much about the effects of refrigerants with high global warming potential. They tell us to think of the poor:

The Kigali Amendment going into force globally will have even more severe economic consequences for people in poor, hot countries who are just beginning to be able to afford air conditioning.

So instead they want to make those poor hot countries poorer and hotter by releasing more greenhouse gases. Makes total sense!

There are also reports of emissions of about 44,000 tons of illegal ozone depleting substances (ODS) per year oozing out of China. They are often used as propellants for making polyurethane foam. But according to TreeHugger Christine, the Chinese government has lept into action. According to Reuters:

“We will dispatch inspectors from the ministry and also ask local authorities to conduct self-checks ... on all companies involved in foam production...For companies that are found illegally producing ODS chemicals, we will impose heavy penalties with zero tolerance and prosecute for criminal offences.”

So we are not there yet. But in these times when everything looks so dire, it's nice to realize that yes, in the face of a crisis, scientists and politicians really can work together, get things done, and make the world a better place.