More protection: United Nations says Earth's ozone layer is healing

A view of the Los Angeles skyline from 4th Street Bridge in 2016

A view of the Los Angeles skyline from 4th Street Bridge in 2016

The ozone layer is healing itself and the massive gaping ozone hole caused by pollution is beginning to shrink, according to a new United Nations (UN) report.

The Protocol was in response to the revelation that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances - used in aerosols, cooling and refrigeration systems, and many other items - were tearing a hole in the ozone layer and allowing unsafe ultraviolet radiation to flood through.

This is due to internationally agreed actions carried out under the historic Montreal Protocol, which came into being over 30 years ago.

It is the latest in a series of reports, released every four years, which monitor the recovery of ozone in the stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that protects life on Earth from the Sun's ultraviolet rays.

Recovery from the holes and thinning caused by aerosol chemicals has progressed at a rate of about 1% to 3% a decade since 2000, meaning the ozone layer over the northern hemisphere and mid-latitudes should heal completely by the 2030s, if current rates are sustained.

Scientists first raised concerns about the thinning state of the depleted ozone layer, brought about by human use of destructive chemicals, in the late 1970s.

"It's really good news", said report co-chairman Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

It said the Antarctic ozone hole is expected to gradually close, returning to 1980 levels in the 2060s.

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Recent reports have found that emissions of a banned CFC are increasing in China - something the Chinese government has vowed to crack down on.

The hole has exposed us to strong ultra-violet light, which has in turn been linked to an increase in diagnoses for skin cancer, prompting severe bans on the manufacture of products featuring the damaging chemicals.

"It shows that the ozone layer is under fix, and highlights areas that must be strengthened for it to be an equally successful platform to phase out HFCs to limit global warming", said Shikha Bhasin, programme lead, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

"The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history for a reason", Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said in a statement.

So a healed ozone layer will worsen man-made climate change there a bit, Newman said.

The Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol, coming into effect at the start of next year, will help reduce future climate change, by targeting HFC gases, mostly used in refrigeration, which have a warming effect tens of thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

'I don't think we can do a victory lap until 2060, ' he said.

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