Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The Ozone Hole Has Gotten Worse, But Should Get Better
By 1987, 24 nations had ratified the Montreal Protocol, a landmark agreement that calls for a ban on producing and using nearly 100 of the most important ozone-depleting chemicals. As of this month, with the addition of East Timor, the protocol has been ratified by every member of the United Nations.
Ozone gas (made from triplets of oxygen atoms) helps shield us from the sun's harmful UV rays. Ninety-seven percent of the substances regulated under the Montreal Protocol have now been phased out and replaced in manufacturing with more ozone-friendly alternatives, like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The remaining gases will be phased out globally by 2040. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, enactment of the protocol has prevented some 20 million cases of skin cancer and 130 million cases of eye cataracts. (Slate.com, 9/29/09)