Celebrating the biggest climate change success

 In Air Pollution

With all the gloomy news recently about climate change it is easy to forget the successes, said Midlands energy expert Ron Fox.

He said the most dramatic was a worldwide ban on ozone-depleting chemicals 34 years ago that has averted a catastrophe today.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called the 1987 Montreal Protocol the single most successful international agreement.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Young, of the Lancaster Environment Centre, told the BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science Programme last month that without the treaty, which banned chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the world and its flora would have been exposed to far more of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

By stopping the production and the import of these ozone-depleting substances, which in turn reduced their concentration in the atmosphere, it helped protect the earth’s ozone layer.

To show the project’s success the ozone hole in 2019 was the smallest on record since its discovery and is expected to return to pre-1980s levels by around 2050 and will be completely closed by around 2060.

This would have contributed to global air temperatures rising by an additional 2.5°C by the end of this century. This would be on top of any warming that would come from an increase in greenhouse gases.

Also, there would have been an extra 165-215 parts per million (40-50%) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and 580 billion tonnes less carbon stored in forests, vegetation and soils.

An important side effect is that scientists reckon the move has saved an estimated two million people from skin cancer every year.

Scientific tests have also shown that plants and vegetation exposed to high levels of UV become stunted so they don’t grow as much and can’t absorb as much carbon.

On top of that, there would have been an extra 165-215 parts per million (40-50%) of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

The Montreal Protocol now has 197 countries signed up to the agreement which has resulted in the phasing out of 99 per cent of nearly 100 ozone-depleting chemicals. It is the only United Nations environmental agreement to be signed by every country in the world.

“The encouraging news is that the science was listened to and acted upon back in the 1980s which led to the ban of CFCs,” said Ron, of Noreus Ltd on the University of Keele Science and Innovation Park in North Staffordshire.

“I only hope that the politicians will listen again to the international scientists so that the world can work together to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

“It should be high on the agenda of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which the UK is hosting in Glasgow between November 1 and 12,” he concluded.

For more information on how to cut your carbon footprint, move to green energy and insulate your home, call Ron on 0845 474 6641.

Caption: The world’s vegetation would have been stunted by UV radiation if action had not been taken to ban ozone-depleting chemicals.

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