This September marked 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. While September 16th has come to be recognized internationally as World Ozone Day since this signing of the Montreal Protocol, this year held particular significance because thirty years have passed since the landmark agreement was adopted.
This is a significant milestone for environmentalism because of the success and impact of the Protocol. Unlike some international environmental agreements, the Montreal Protocol has been incredibly effective, and these major accomplishments deserve to be celebrated. The United Nations-Environment launched a campaign entitled Ozone Heros, which seeks to recognize the contributions of all global citizens in protecting the ozone layer and the climate. After all, the ozone layer belongs to all of us, and therefore we all deserve congratulations on its continual remediation.
The ozone layer serves as a shield protecting the Earth from the harmful portion of the sun’s rays. Life on earth is entirely dependent on a healthy and robust ozone layer.
The phaseout of ozone depleting substances, CFCs and HCFCs, on the international scale has safeguarded the protection of the ozone layer for future generations, contributed significantly to the global efforts to address climate change, and restricted the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation on human health and ecosystems.
While the Montreal Protocol has made significant contributions to the health of our planet, the road that led to the signing of the Protocol in 1987 was not straightforward. As early as 1964 scientists were starting to hypothesis that human activity could exacerbate ozone destruction by emitted water vapour into the stratosphere (upper atmosphere). CFCs were identified to be highly destructive substances to the ozone in the 1970s, a time when CFCs were entering the atmosphere at a rate of 1 million tonnes per year. By 1975 the United Nations Environment Programme has drafted the World Plan of Action on the Ozone Layer, but it was the discovery of the ozone hole over the Antarctic that cleared the way for the signing of the Protocol two years later. The ozone hole in the Antarctic was indisputable evidence that ozone depleting substances can persist in the atmosphere for long periods of time and travel large distances, thereby reinforcing the need for global agreement and effort.
Canada has made significant contributions to the field of ozone research, designing a ground-based instrument for measuring total ozone that is now used worldwide. The device called the Brewer ozone spectrophotometer was designed in the 1960s by Alan Brewer, David Wardle, Jim Kerr and Tom McElroy as part of a joint effort between the University of Toronto and Environment Canada. The instrument went into commercial production in 1982. Brewer spectrophotometers can be used in the most extreme environments on Earth, including the Canadian Arctic, with sites at Alert, Eureka and Resolute, Nunavut. Environment and Climate Change Canada maintains a network of Brewer spectrometers in order to continuously monitor ozone levels across the country.
In the words of Environment Canada scientist D. Wardle: “The Protocol demonstrates that the economy, as well as individual corporations, can survive regulation, provided that controls are introduced in a way that permits long-term planning and a level playing field for industries around the world” (September 2007).
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