On the Mend: Recovering the Ozone Layer
By Jasmine Biju
February 3, 2023
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST
Over the years, the Earth’s ozone layer, which protects from the sun’s potent radiation such as UVC light, has developed holes caused by human activity. From burning fossil fuels to refrigeration, the resulting fluorinated and greenhouse gasses contribute to the deterioration of the ozone shield. Fortunately, the holes created are starting to repair and are in improving condition as per the World Meteorological Organization(WMO).
In 1985, scientists discovered an extensive hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Consequential to this shocking finding, the Montreal Protocol, an effort to eliminate substances harmful to the ozone layer, was adopted internationally. Scientists have predicted that in the next coming decades, the ozone layer will return to a healthy threshold. WMO predicts that by 2066, the ozone layer will be in a similar condition as before 1985. In other global regions, scientists predict the recovery rate will be quicker. In the Arctic, the projected recovery date is 2045 whereas for other countries is 2040. These projections are under the assumption that climate-concerning policies are continued to be enforced to sustain the improving conditions of the ozone layer.
Ozone molecules, which form through the interaction between solar ultraviolet radiation and molecular oxygen, absorb damaging UVC light and most UVB light. Ozone depletion refers to the imbalance of the creation of stratospheric ozone and the destruction of O₃. This imbalance is caused when ozone molecules react with molecules of nitrogen, hydrogen, chlorine, or bromine.
Chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs) were molecules once used in refrigeration and other cooling systems that contribute to ozone depletion. As the molecules rise into the stratosphere and break down from UV radiation, the resulting chlorine atoms react with ozone. Less potent molecules, hydrochlorofluorocarbons(HCFCs) are used as replacements but still do not solve the problem. By now, however, the Montreal Protocol has contributed to eradicating ozone-depleting substances.
This global agreement is crucial in decelerating climate change. It helped to limit another CFC and HCFC alternative, hydrofluorocarbons, which will reduce global warming by half a degree by 2100. Though progress is being made, experts are cautious about the implications of various methods used against climate change, particularly the stratosphere aerosol injection(SAI).
The proposition is that SAI will utilize solar radiation modification to introduce aerosols in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space. It would contribute to global dimming, a decrease in global irradiance, and increased albedo, a measure of solar diffuse reflection. The solar geoengineering methodology proposes various implications that are being further scrutinized such as ozone depletion, the complete opposite of what the tactic is intending to do.
Nevertheless, scientists are still researching inventive ways to tackle climate change at a large-scale level. The improving state of the ozone layer demonstrates the progress that can be made if environmental policies are enforced and the problem is globally emphasized. Though we are heading in the right direction, it is imperative to prioritize tackling the climate change problem.
Denchak, Melissa. “Greenhouse Effect 101.” NRDC,
“Montreal Protocol Emerges As a Powerful Climate Treaty.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 11 Jan. 2023,
Dance, Scott. “Ozone layer continues to heal, a key development for health, food security and the planet, the U.N. says.” The Washington Post, 9 Jan. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2023/01/09/ozone-layer-recove ry-study-2023/