The work that is done by ozone in the stratospheric layer of the atmosphere is vital to the survival of life on earth. It wasn’t until the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered that a majority of countries around the globe became determined to control the use of CFC’s and other chemicals breaking down the ozone in the stratosphere, as the authors in the “Ozone Depletion” article explains.
The movement to protect the ozone layer began in 1970, when scientists discovered that CFC’s, or chlorofluorocarbons, were releasing chlorine atoms which then acted as a catalyst in the destruction of the ozone in the stratosphere. When international discussions began in the early 1980’s, there was a clear division between the U.S./Canada/Nordic States, European Community ( which consisted of the UK, France and Italy), and the main developing countries at the time. The lead states, led by the U.S. primarily advocated for heavy restrictions on CFC’s and their production, while the EC and developing countries did not want to be limited in their future potential. It wasn’t until 1987 that specific obligations were hashed out in the Montreal Protocol. In 1988, however, satellite data began to reflect the “Antarctic ozone hole,” the thinning of the ozone layer above the “heavily-populated” Northern Hemisphere. This catalyzed international action. In 1992, the EC switched positions, advocating for stronger regulation while the U.S. did not approve. It wasn’t until 1999 that the U.S. gave in to stronger policies and control.
According to NASA, the Antarctic ozone hole seems to be in a state of recovery. The ozone hole opens up every September-October, and using this data researchers have now shown “that the size of the ozone void has shrunk, on average, by around 4m sq km since 2000”. Looking into the very future, it is believed that the ozone hole will not be healed until 2050 or 2060, due to the ability of CFC’s to linger in the atmosphere for even 50 years. If it had not been for the Montreal Protocol and international collaboration, these signs of change would not have been possible.
Chasek, Downey, and Brown make some very important conclusions in “Ozone Depletion”. As science becomes more definitive, countries are more willing to change their position on an issue, just as the European Community did in this case. The role of science is imperative to successfully passing regulation, therefore, as regulation can only happen if there is significant evidence provided. On the whole, the problem of CFC’s and the ozone hole is a testament to the ability of international players to come together to solve a major, global problem.
More on the recovery of the ozone: http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/613084/Ozone-recovery-shock-Nasa-says-hole-in-Ozone-Layer-should-be-half-closed-by-2020