What would the world in the 1980s be without fashionable big hairs and ice cream cones? From hair sprays for different types of hair to modified refrigerators, the world witnessed the emergence of technology that was transforming lifestyle. But unfortunately, very few noticed the consequences of using these products. Between 1986-87, scientists in Antarctica confirmed a development that left the world on edge: many personal hygiene products like hair spray, refrigerators, and plastic items produced chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were slowly ripping a hole in the ozone layer. Over time, that hole was only getting bigger. But why were CFCs ripping a hole in the ozone layer? Why was it so concerning and what had that got to do with climate change? Read on to know.
We are very lucky to live in the Goldilocks Zone (the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold so that liquid water can exist on the surface of surrounding planets). In other words, the Goldilocks Zone is the habitable part of the Solar system. However, it is not the only factor playing a crucial part in sustaining life on this planet.
One of the other important factors is the ozone layer. Now what is the ozone layer?
You can say that the ozone layer is the Earth’s sunscreen – it protects all living beings from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the kind that can burn our skin and prevent plants from carrying out photosynthesis.
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The Earth’s atmosphere has five major and several secondary layers.
The second layer, stratosphere, is home to the ozone layer, which comprises a gas called ozone. Essentially, the ozone layer acts as an invisible filter that traps the Sun’s most harmful UV rays – approximately 98% of them. That’s why the ozone layer is so important for lives to sustain on Earth. And a hole in that layer caused a huge turmoil, so much that people were told to throw away their hairsprays for the fear of further damage.
Chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that comprise chlorine, fluorine and carbon atoms are the primary culprits of ozone depletion. When CFCs are released into the atmosphere and exposed to sunlight, the UV radiation causes the molecule to break down into their individual atoms. At that stage, when chlorine gets separated from CFCs, it reacts with ozone, destroying the layer and leaving it thinner than before. And the thinner the layer gets, the easier for the UV rays to penetrate and harm us.
However, while once upon a time, the ozone layer was hot news, very little is spoken about it of late today – and there is a good reason for that! Rather, a success story. The disturbing discovery of ozone layer depletion set the stage for an environmental triumph. Today the ozone layer is healing – thanks to an unprecedented act in 1987 when several countries came together to sign the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is a global agreement to protect the Earth’s ozone layer by phasing out the chemicals that deplete it. This phase-out plan includes both the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances.
This unparalleled cooperation from around the world had a major impact. Not only it helped reduce the number of cases of skin cancer and cataracts, it also helped prevent further changes to our climate and weather.
Not yet, but it seems to be getting there. In 2018, NASA scientists found the first direct proof that the ozone layer was recovering. Research showed that between 2005 and 2018, ozone layer depletion was reduced by about 20 percent.
If we continue to care for the ozone layer, then scientific assessments project that the global ozone layer could be completely repaired by 2080.
Will you take a stand to help protect the ozone layer? What steps will you take? Do tell us in the comments below.
Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself. Drop in a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you liked her stories, have something nice to say, or if you have compelling ideas to share!
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