Earth's Ozone Layers
Healing Say Group -
Complete Recovery Due
Two international organizations are calling the Montreal Protocol an outstanding success and predict that if the protocol is fully implemented, a complete recovery of the Earth's protective ozone shield could occur by the middle of next century.
The World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program jointly released this week the Executive Summary of the "Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion - 1998". It was prepared by more than 200 scientists from around the world and was reviewed June 1-6 by 77 scientists from 27 countries.
The ozone layer shields the Earth from the Sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. Exposure to increased UV-B radiation at the Earth's surface is known to result in skin cancer and unpredictable damage to plants, algae, the food chain and the global ecosystem.
While welcoming the report's findings, Klaus Topfer, executive director of UNEP cautioned against complacency and urged all parties to the protocol to seize every opportunity to reduce their emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals.
"The use of economic instruments has played an important role in the phase-out achieved so far by the industrialized countries," says Topfer. "The developing countries, due to begin their phase-out next year, can speed up the process by using these instruments," he said.
Prof. G.O.P Obasi, secretary general of WMO, paid tribute to the continuous efforts of WMO member countries which have been carrying out systematic observations and analysis of ozone and related chemical compounds for the last four decades.
"Without such data and scientific assessments it would have been impossible to detect the start of the ozone decline in the 1970s" he said. "In fact, remedial actions that were later taken as a result of the Montreal Protocol were made possible thanks to these efforts."
"The WMO global network of stations is detecting lower rates of increase in bromine and a decline of chlorine concentrations from ozone-destructive substances in the troposphere, obviously as a result of the restrictions made by the Montreal Protocol," he said. "However, perhaps it might not be possible to detect firm signs of ozone recovery before another 20 years, due to the natural atmospheric and ozone variability.
He further urged governments to continue to expand their activities in atmospheric monitoring and research, including those on tropospheric ozone which is becoming an essential component in the understanding of the ozone-climate issue.
Even thought the protocol is working well to reduce the use and release of ozone-depleting substances, the life of chemicals already released in the atmosphere will keep the depletion going for years to come, according to the report.
The full Scientific Assessment 1998 on the state of the ozone layer will be published in its entirety by WMO and UNEP later this year and will be available as WMO Ozone Report No. 44.
For more information, contact Robert Bisset, UNEP, 254-2-623084 email Copyright 1998, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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