Thursday, 1 December, 2022
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International Day for the Ozone Layer

Protect the Shield that Safeguards Life on Earth

Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder

The Montreal Protocol started as a global commitment to protect the ozone layer and is now one of the most effective environmental agreements ever. The Protocol was consented in 1987 as part of the Vienna Convention on Protection of The Ozone Layer, and the UN General Assembly declared September 16th the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in 1994. Bangladesh has been recognising the day since 1990 following the treaty's signing in the same year. The Kigali Amendment will make the Montreal Protocol an even more effective tool in the fight against global warming. The impact of the Kigali Amendment will avoid up to 0.5 °C increase in global temperature by the end of the century.

Every year there is a theme for the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, this year the theme is “Global Cooperation Protecting Life on Earth”. The theme emphasizes the Montreal Protocol's wider impacts on global warming while also acknowledging the necessity of working together, forming alliances, and encouraging international cooperation to confront climate concerns and safeguard life on Earth for future generations. 

The ozone layer was first identified in 1930 by two French physicists, Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson. A huge proportion of ozone gas is present in the layer of the earth's atmosphere known as the ozone layer. This layer is largely located in the lower stratosphere.

The ozone in the stratosphere is beneficial. It is called “Good” ozone as considering that it shields living things from the sun's UV (ultra-violet) radiation, which can cause a number of health issues, especially in youngsters, the elderly, and those of all ages who have lung conditions like asthma. Additionally, the majority of ground-level ozone occurs as a byproduct of man-made air pollution released by fossil-fuel vehicles, factories, power and chemical plants, and other sources in the presence of sunlight which affects people and the environment. Thus ground-level ozone considered as “Bad” ozone. Certain synthetic chemicals called Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) with chlorine and bromine have a strong potential to destroy the ozone layer through chemical reactions in the earth's stratosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are used in freezers, air conditioning unit foam products, aerosol sprays, and halons, which are used in fire extinguishers, are examples of ODS. It is estimated that the chemical impacts of the substances that contribute to ozone depletion would last for around 50 to 100 years due to their nature and properties.

Bangladesh was the first developing nation to entirely phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbon-141b gas from the foam sector of the refrigerator assembly businesses. The manufacturing of aerosols, refrigeration, air conditioning, ready-to-wear, and pharmaceuticals in Bangladesh and other developing countries that have ratified the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement to phase out ODS. In Bangladesh we use all imported gases, including ozone depleting substances. It is forbidden to import and use ODS gases of the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) group, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform after December 2009, with the exception of essential uses. Because of the country's 8.2% economic growth, there is a growing demand for appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners that use ODS. Despite the difficulties posed by this rising demand, Bangladesh has been one of the most successful nations in its efforts to phase out ozone-depleting compounds.

The ozone layer, which is about 25 kilometers thick and surrounds the planet, protects life on earth by absorbing some of the sun's energy and preventing dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the surface. Ozone is not only essential for life on Earth, but we also need to keep protecting it for coming generations. The amount of UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface depends on two factors: how much of the sky is covered in clouds and how high you are above sea level. After COVID-19 reduced pollution levels, which had a significant positive impact on the ozone layer's recovery, it began to repair. According to research organisation as like Centre of Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) think that the coronavirus outbreak helps to accelerate the Ozone layer's recovery by lowering pollutants. In 2020, the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the northern hemisphere's "unprecedented" ozone depletion was observed to be healed which took 30 years after the Montreal Protocol was signed.

When chlorine and bromine atoms come into contact with ozone in the stratosphere, they destroy ozone molecules. One chlorine atom can destroy over 100,000 ozone molecules before it is removed from the stratosphere. Ozone can be destroyed more quickly than it is naturally created. As the amount of ozone declines, UV radiation increases. There is evidence less ozone-layer protection from ultraviolet (UV) light will, over time, damage crops and lead to higher skin cancer and cataract rates and the extinction of some marine species.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) projected in 2011, that around one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted annually. It results in annual greenhouse gas (GHG), including ozone emissions of around 4.4 gigatons CO2-eq, or about 8% of the total global GHG emissions, with a projected financial loss of about $940 billion. So, cold chain system is unavoidable. Cold chains can improve and become more commonly available if solutions are created that are more effective, more environmentally friendly, and less expensive to buy and run. As like consideration to energy efficiency, shifting to renewable energy, in order to ensure that goods like food and vaccines reach consumers safely and in good condition, this will give producers like farmers and pharmaceutical companies the option of pre-cooling, refrigerated storage, and refrigerated delivery. The Kigali Amendment gives cold-chain operators a clear incentive to install low-GWP or zero-GWP refrigerants. It also provides an opportunity to rethink cold-chain strategies that simultaneously advance business and environmental goals.

The effects of climate change are worldwide is enormous in scale, including from changing weather patterns that endanger food production to increasing sea levels that raise the risk of catastrophic flooding. The greenhouse gases not only influence in climate change, but also affect the ozone layer in depleting. The Montreal Protocol does so much more – such as significantly to global efforts to address slowing climate change and helping to boost energy efficiency in the cooling sector, which contributes to food security. The phase-out of controlled uses of ozone depleting substances and the related reductions have not only helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations but furthermore, it has protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth.

Aiming at protecting the climate and the ozone layer, we need to decrease production and consumption of hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is perfectly positioned to assist developing countries and countries with economy in transition to shift from HFCs to ozone- and climate-friendly alternatives and to improve energy efficiency.  We can take their support to transfer into the use of energy efficiency, and introducing low-carbon and low-emission technologies and practices in Bangladesh.

 

The writer is the Dean, Faculty of Science and Chairman, Dept. of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh