Has the Problem of the Ozone Hole Been Solved? vr, sep 16, 2011

The closing of the hole in the world's stratospheric ozone layer is still many decades away and the effects and interactions of ozone depletion on climate change are just starting to be understood.

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Ninety seven per cent of all ozone depleting substances controlled by the global treaty known as the Montreal Protocol have been phased out

New UNEP documentary examines its status

Paris, 16 September 2011
- The ozone hole is back in the news. In August the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that signs of ozone depletion were again appearing over the Antarctic. A few months earlier, the Antarctic ozone hole was making headlines as scientists found that it was "creating rainfall in subtropical regions".

The problem of the ozone hole was supposed to be solved, wasn't it?

In fact, the closing of the hole in the world's stratospheric ozone layer is still many decades away and the effects and interactions of ozone depletion on climate change are just starting to be understood.

For these reasons, the OzonAction Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) decided to embark on an investigative journey through the history and science of the ozone layer, the actions taken to address this major environmental threat and the consequences both for the ozone layer and the Earth's climate system.

The resulting documentary, The Antarctic Ozone Hole: From Discovery to Recovery, examines the current state of the ozone layer, the effects of ozone depletion on climate change and the potential impact on communities worldwide.

Thid scientific journey, which had a worldwide screening today to mark the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, is not a portrait of a planet in crisis but rather has experts from NASA, the British Antarctic Survey, Colombia University and other leading ozone researchers who offer hope and solutions to reducing ozone depletion. Indeed, they show that the Montreal Protocol, which covers ozone depleting substances (ODS), can deliver immediate climate benefits.

"The Montreal Protocol is a great example of what can be accomplished if nations, industry, technologists and scientists all combine to work on a problem," said Paul Newman from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

One hundred and ninety-six countries have signed the Montreal Protocol, making it the first treaty of any kind to achieve universal ratification. All the world's governments are now legally obligated to phase out ODS under the schedules defined by the Protocol.

"The Montreal Protocol started off with baby steps. The countries took a decision and based on science, they changed the decisions. There were many amendments and adjustments, which finally made it so successful. There may be a lesson in that for the climate negotiations and climate decisions, too," said A.R Ravishankara from NOAA.

The International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer or ("Ozone Day"), is an official UN day commemorating the date in 1987 on when the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. Screenings of the film include a launch in Nairobi where UNEP has its headquarters, and at the Biosphère Environment Museum in Montreal, the city where the Protocol was signed. The video is available in English and French at

http://www.unep.org/ozonaction/antarctic

The international version will be provided to National Ozone Units for translation into local languages upon request. The narration of the French version is by Elisa Sednaoui, a young Franco-Italian actress and model.

For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, Acting Director Division of Communications and Public Information/UNEP Spokesperson, nick.nuttall@unep.org + 254 73 363 2755

Moira O'Brien-Malone, Head, Communications, UNEP Paris, moira.obrien-malone@unep.org, +33 1 44 37 76 12 or mobile +33 6 82 26 93 73.

Anne Fenner, Communications, OzonAction Branch, UNEP, Paris anne.fenner@unep.org, +33 1 44 37 14 54 or +33678787882

Note to Editors:

About the Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol focuses on the protection of the earth's ozone layer. This treaty has enabled both developed and developing countries to achieve a near total phase-out in the production and use of most ozone depleting substances.

Because the majority of ozone depleting substances are also potent global warming gasses, the actions taken under the Montreal Protocol have contributed significantly to the global effort to address climate change.

Interesting facts about the Montreal Protocol

  • The Montreal Protocol has achieved universal participation by all states in the world, the number of participating States is 196, an achievement unprecedented by any treaty;

  • It is estimated that without the Protocol, by the year 2050 ozone depletion would have risen to at least 50% in the northern hemisphere's mid latitudes and 70% in the southern mid latitudes, about 10 times worse than current levels;

  • The Montreal Protocol is estimated to have prevented:

    -19 million more cases of non-melanoma cancer

    -1.5 million more cases of melanoma cancer

    -130 million more cases of eye cataracts

  • Ninety seven per cent of all ozone depleting substances controlled by the global treaty known as the Montreal Protocol have been phased out - but what remains is still a challenge to eliminate;

  • Global observations have verified that atmospheric levels of key ozone depleting substances are going down and it is believed that with implementation of the Protocol's provisions the ozone layer should return to pre-1980 levels by 2050 to 2075;

  • In 2003, political recognition of the Protocol came in the statement of then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who termed the Montreal Protocol "perhaps the single most successful international environmental agreement to date".

The Ozone Layer

The Ozone layer protects the earth's inhabitants from harmful UV radiation and is essential for life on Earth, as it screens out lethal UV-B radiation. Increased UV-B from ozone depletion can lead to:

  • More melanoma and non-melanoma skin-cancers

  • More eye cataracts

  • Weakened immune systems - this may contribute to viral reactivation and a reduction of effectiveness of vaccines

  • Reduced plant yields, changes in plant growth and form

  • Damage to ocean eco-systems and reduced fishing yields

  • Damage to wood and plastics

About UNEP DTIE's OzonAction Branch:

The OzonAction Branch of UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics is based in Paris and assists developing countries to meet and sustain their compliance obligations under the Montreal Protocol. With this programme's assistance, countries are able to make informed decisions about alternative technologies and ozone-friendly policies. With support from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, the Branch has implemented more than 1000 projects and services, benefitting more than 100 developing countries plus other services that assist another 40 developing countries.

Please see: www.unep.org/ozonaction

About The Secretariat

The Ozone Secretariat is the Secretariat for the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and for the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Based at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) offices in Nairobi (Kenya), the Secretariat's main duties include arranging for and servicing all the meetings related to the Convention and the Protocol, arranging for the implementation of decisions taken by the Governments, monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the treaties, collecting and analysing data on controlled ozone-depleting substances, representing the treaties in relevant international and regional meetings and providing information to governments, international organizations and individuals on various aspects of the protection of the ozone layer.

 
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