Montreal Protocol was brought in place in the year 1987 and has been dubbed as the most successful agreement in the history of climate diplomacy. When, in the early 1980s, a large hole was prognosticated to have developed in the ozone layer over the Antarctica Continent in the Southern Hemisphere, there was a sense of panic-driven urgency to act. Ozone layer is located in the stratosphere layer (16-50 kilometres above the surface of earth) of the atmosphere and its density is maximum at around 23 kilometers above the earth’s surface. There is a difference of ozone in the stratosphere and ozone on the ground. In the former case, ozone is a blessing, whereas on the ground, ozone is the most poisonous pollutant alongside carbon monoxide. Besides being poisonous, ozone reduces the visibility drastically. Ozone acts as a blanket which prevents the incoming ultraviolet radiations from reaching the earth’s surface, thus saving humans from the hazards of negative mutations. Those mutations cause skin cancers, baldness, loss of vision, stunting of growth etc. While there is no such conclusive evidence between the increase in the frequencies of cancers, hair loss etc at the moment across the world and the ozone depletion, certain findings have definitely pointed at it.
Year 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. The theme of the year’s Ozone Day was the ‘Ozone and Climate: Restored by the world united’. The theme was to emphasize the point that only a cogent and coordinated action of the world has been able to heal the hole in the ozone. Researchers have found out in the year 2015 that the hole in the ozone has shrunken, all thanks to the awareness generated by both the governments as well as the civil society about the Ozone depleting substance. With the mad rush towards urbanisation and the use of refrigerators getting quite rampant, the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs or Freon as their brand name) witnessed quantum leaps in a very short span of time in the second half of the 20th Century. CFCs deplete the ozone layer, besides being the agents of global warming, having Global Warming Potential (GWP) around 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide. Montreal Protocol in its first leg envisaged, and managed as well, the gradual phase-out of the use of CFCs and brought Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). While the HCFCs are less harmful than CFCs, their contribution to ozone depletion and global warming can’t be undermined. To eliminate any possibility of further ozone depletion, HCFCs were replaced with Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). It’s true that HFCs are latent when it comes to ozone depletion, but they aggravate the already gruesome problem of global warming. In this context, therefore, in October 2016, a legally-binding agreement was signed by around 175 countries in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The Kigali agreement kickstarts in the year 2018 and shall culminate with full force in the year 2046. It has categorized the countries into three groups: those which are developed like USA and west European countries, Countries like China, Brazil etc and countries like Iran, Pakistan, India etc, depending on their preparations and their historic responsibility.
What marks the Kigali Agreement-an amendment to the Montreal protocol- out is that the countries remain bound legally to take action on curbing the production of the HFC. Legally-bound in the era of Paris negotiations! Paris negotiations have dealt a serious blow to whatever progress might have been made on the climate change, because the major emitters of the world have been found recalcitrant to bring radical changes to their emission basket. INDCs – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – of different countries are definitely ambitious but how much progress on the ground they are going to make remains to be seen.
The objective of the World Ozone Day is therefore to make the world aware about the dangers lurking in case we don’t act. Had the action not been taken in the late 1980s by the world, the game would have been over by now. In all probability, the ozone layer (ozone is measured in Dobson Units). A Dobson unit of gas is equal to a layer of gas, at the surface of the earth, with a thickness of one hundredth of a millimeter. The ozone in the atmosphere which is about 300 Dobsons might have been pockmarked by holes at very many places. On the 30th anniversary of the Montreal protocol, the conference of parties to the protocol had given the slogan ‘We are all Ozone heroes’ because large swathes of the world don’t have even the basic info about the ozone depletion and the catastrophic effect it can have on all the flora and fauna of the world. The problem of ignorance is compound by the climate skepticism of the leaders (like Trump) whose countries are the prime criminals in the process.
I’ve absolutely no aim to thrust the complex jargon of climate sciences on the people in my part of the world, when there are far too many pressing issues confronting them in the immediate run. But since Kashmir’s is a very fragile ecosystem, which remains extremely vulnerable to any kind of human interference, therefore the people need to be ever-acquainted about the ravages of the ozone depletion and the larger process of the climate change. We might be least responsible for the ills begotten by the climate change, but the double whammy is in the disproportionate impact it can have on us. Manifestations of the DNA change like cancers, baldness etc on the rise in the state can be just a consequence.
P.S. It is advisable not to use the refrigerators unnecessarily. Also, use star-rated refrigerators.
Uzair Qadri has specialized in environmental engineering.