Safeguarding Ozone Layer as Career

Ranjan K Baruah

There are many questions ahead of us when it comes to climate change and one of the concerns for us is about ‘Ozone’ or more importantly Ozone layer’. The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. We should know that ozone is a special form of oxygen with the chemical formula O3. The oxygen we breathe and that is so vital to life on earth is O2. Ozone constitutes a very small part of our atmosphere, but its presence is nevertheless vital to human well-being. Most ozone resides high up in the atmosphere, between 10 and 40km above Earth's surface. This region is called the stratosphere and it contains about 90% of all the ozone in the atmosphere.

Ozone in the stratosphere absorbs some of the Sun’s biologically harmful ultraviolet radiation. Because of this beneficial role, stratospheric ozone is considered “good” ozone. In contrast, excess ozone at Earth’s surface that is formed from pollutants is considered “bad” ozone because it can be harmful to humans, plants, and animals. Following the publication of the findings of a British Antarctic Survey article in May 1985, the phenomenon of ozone depletion over Antarctica was referred to as the "ozone hole", a phrase first attributed to Nobel Prize winner Sherwood Rowland.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (resolution 49/114).

This year Ozone Day is held under the theme Montreal Protocol: fixing the ozone layer and reducing climate change. We celebrate the achievements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This year’s theme highlights and reiterates the positive impact of the Montreal Protocol on ozone layer recovery and reducing climate change. Especially emphasizing the Kigali Amendment, which through the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and improved efficiency in the cooling sector will provide additional climate mitigation benefits.

A number of commonly used chemicals have been found to be extremely damaging to the ozone layer. Halocarbons are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked to one or more halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine). Halocarbons containing bromine usually have much higher ozone-depleting potential (ODP) than those containing chlorine. The man-made chemicals that have provided most of the chlorine and bromine for ozone depletion are methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and families of chemicals known as halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

There are different career options when it comes to working for the planet and safeguarding the ozone layer. One may choose to study environmental science or earth sciences or geography or other science subjects. It is important to be academically smart to work in the field of ozone protection or generating awareness amongst people. The success of the Montreal protocol is a welcome move but we need more innovations in products which may be used as alternatives to ozone depleting substances.

One may get an opportunity to work for different international organizations like the United Nations Environment Programme or similar organisations that focus on the environment and also on ozone. There are many other intergovernmental and non governmental organizations working in this field which engage people from the background of environmental engineering or environmental sciences. Let us understand about the global issues and work professionally to bring solutions and make a better world for all of us.


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