Preserving the ozone layer: What more can be said?

14Sep 2020
The Guardian
Preserving the ozone layer: What more can be said?

​​​​​​​A DAY of reflection on the preservation of the ozone layer has been set by the United Nations for September 16 each year, whose importance scarcely needs to be labored upon. It is now close to 30 years since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development took place-

-in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. It was followed by the Kyoto (Japan) conference to lay the framework for financing basic climate change mitigation initiatives in 1997 and much later in 2012 in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. It is the latter conference that provided a framework for action in use now, but how far is it an answer?

While the world marks the International Day for the preservation of the ozone layer, there are signs that the battle to combat climate change is in the course of being lost, even if its negative consequences or fearsome implications aren’t felt around the world in the same way. We have largely been spared weather excesses that are making life unbearable in many countries, and not singularly the poorest, as the kind of fires that have lately ravaged the western part of the United States are an unheard of phenomenon. Nor is the massive flooding in the Nile Valley and especially in Sudan something that the region is familiar with.

It isn’t just the US where uncontrollable fires broke out, as earlier it was Australia, and even more surprisingly Brazil, as the Amazon forest is located in a deeply humid tropical atmosphere by average standards, but fires have been spreading unchecked in a large portion of those forests. There are also plenty of fires that have been ravaging tropical forests in DRC nearby, but they were more limited in range and intensity compared to Brazil, and ordinarily appear to have arisen from widening traditional agricultural activities. Brazil is different as the forest is being conquered for agri-business, by and large.

All these massive fires produce the massively excessive carbon dioxide emissions which are the principal threat to preserving the ozone layer. The wisdom underlying global policy action in that direction is a different source of carbon dioxide emissions, chiefly from the combustion of fossil fuels in transportation and industry in particular, apart from clearing forests to expand farms. The trouble is that little progress is being registered in that direction as renewable energy production consumes plenty of traditional energy to put into place for instance solar, wind and thermal energy equipment, which doesn’t diminish total fuel needs. Despite the Covid-19 global travel lockdown, global agencies say gas emissions were just as high.

What now looks like the gravest threat to global economy is rising sea levels, touching off devastating hurricanes and cyclones whose impact appears to be rising year after year. The danger arising from expanding holes in the ozone layer increasing the impact of ultraviolet rays from the sun upon the earth hasn’t so far been touted as causing the grave effects of accumulated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that ignites global warming. The impact of such gases is adequate even before scientists actually sound the alarm about the ozone layer, but when these days of reflection were being reflected upon, the specific danger of global warming and its impact was being put to plenty of debate, chiefly from ‘climate change skeptics.’ It is evident that many of them are starting to acknowledge the grave realities the world faces.

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