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Ozone layer slowly recovering after decades of damage

After 35 years of facing depletion, Earth’s ozone layer has shown signs that it’s recovering, a U.N. scientific panel said Wednesday.

Ozone levels saw a four percent increase from 2000 to 2013, NASA scientist Paul A. Newman said. The panel’s report added that this reversal came after years of ozone depletion in the 1980s and early 1990s and relatively unchanged levels in the 2000s.

These positive findings can be contributed, the report said, to “concerted international action” against man-made chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, chemicals found in refrigerant coolants, spray aerosols and other products. The report namechecks the Montreal Protocol, as a major source of this environmental story’s success. The international treaty, which came into fruition in 1987, sought to reduce the world’s reliance on CFCs and other substances that proved harmful to the ozone layer.

The protective ozone layer around Earth is made up of stratospheric molecules that help shield the planet from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun. Exposure to this solar radiation has been linked to skin cancer and cataracts, and has been known to impair plant growth and development in many marine organisms.

Despite the good news, scientists explain that the Antarctic ozone hole will continue to appear over the Southern Hemisphere because while emissions of CFCs have slowed, they’ll continue to linger in the atmosphere.

“International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. “This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”

Published by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and WMO, the assessment was consulted by 300 scientists and is updated every four years.

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