Keep Cool and Carry On
Today, September 16, is the International Day for The Protection of the Ozone Layer. This year’s theme happens to be ‘Keep Cool and Carry On: The Montreal Protocol’.
The air we breathe is essentially made up of a mixture of gases. Nitrogen is the most dominant component out of all of these elements, and oxygen happens to be the only breathable gas that’s vital for the existence of all living beings.
The ozone layer plays a rather distinct role which is again inherently linked with facilitating the earth’s ecosystems. This is done through the shield of gas that’s scattered throughout the earth’s atmospheric layer that protects the earth from the harmful portion of the sun’s rays (UN.org).
There are two main protocols in existence in order to regulate environment protection – Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol.
The Montreal Protocol was primarily propounded with the aim of banning chemicals that deplete the ozone layer, chlorofluorocarbons being one of them. It’s the most successful protocol to be signed by the international community (197 signatories).
Jayantha Wijesinghe from Rainforest Protectors Sri Lanka said,
“It’s the most successful protocol signed by the international community.”
He added, “Everyone collectively made a decision because everyone understood.”
It is widely known that chlorofluorocarbons contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.
What of CFCs?
Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs are associated with a variety of products and processes such as aerosol products, food freezing, tobacco expansion and sterilisation of medical equipment.
Jayantha explained to us that when these particles get released into the earth’s atmosphere, it has the capability of reacting with and breaking down the ozone layer, hence resulting in its depletion. He added “this has an adverse effect because the prime purpose of the ozone layer disappears, so the sun’s harmful rays, UV rays, hit the ground level. This may then result in serious health concerns such as skin cancers.” Moreover, he added that this would invariably have a negative impact on global warming as well because global temperatures will be forced to increase.
Whilst the release of harmful chemicals remains to be a pressing issue, pollution of the environment may also act as a catalyst in triggering the depletion of the ozone layer. Jayantha instituted that manufacturing facilities such as coal power plants and even boilers release harmful chemicals to the earth’s atmosphere. “For the ozone layer to be formed properly, a precise good mix of oxygen content in the atmosphere is imperative. The greenhouse effect coming into the picture would reduce oxygen levels, thus resulting in the depletion of the ozone layer.”
On the brighter side of things, the current stance on this aspect is such that since the beginning of its depletion, scientists have been able to detect that currently the ozone layer is in the process of healing and recovering itself. Organisations such as the European Union have embarked upon the initiative of completely banning hydro chlorofluorocarbons.
Jayantha revealed that in 2007, Sri Lanka was presented the Montreal Protocol Implementation Award. This was in light of appreciating the steps and methods followed by Sri Lanka during the implementation process of the protocol.
However, we still produce aerosol sprays that are manufactured using chlorofluorocarbons. While there still remains room for improvement, Jayantha feels that discussions have been made to completely ban the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons by the year 2030.
Can we remain hopeful?
By Chenelle Fernando