World Ozone Day 2020: Current Theme, History, Significance and Key facts

World Ozone Day or International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer 2020: It is observed on 16 September annually. The day reminds about the signing of the Montreal Protocol on substances that depletes the Ozone Layer. On this day people from all over the world are expected to join the Montreal protocol to join the talks and seminars.

Life is not possible on Earth without the ozone layer. It is found in the upper layers of the atmosphere and is a highly reactive gas. It protects life on Earth by absorbing Sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation and so is also known as Ozone Shield. Ultraviolet rays can cause several skin diseases.

World Ozone Day 2020: Theme

The theme of World Ozone Day 2020 is Ozone for life: 35 years of ozone layer protection. It marks 35 years of the Vienna Convention and 35 years of global ozone layer protection. This stratospheric layer shields Earth from most of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunlight makes life possible, but the ozone layer makes life as we know it possible.

In the late 1970s, scientists discovered that humanity was creating a hole in this protective shield and so they raised the alarm. The hole caused by ozone-depleting gases (ODSs) used in aerosols and cooling, such as refrigerators and air-conditioners. It was threatening to increase cases of skin cancer and cataracts, and damage plants, crops, and ecosystems.

The theme of World Ozone Day 2019 is '32 years and Healing'. This year's theme celebrates three decades of remarkable international cooperation to protect the Ozone Layer and the climate under the Montreal Protocol. It also reminds the people to keep up the momentum to ensure healthy people and a healthy planet. In 2018, the latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion was completed. This assessment shows that the parts of the Ozone Layer have recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. Even at the projected rates, the Northern hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s. The Southern Hemisphere will follow in the 2050s and Polar Regions by 2060. No doubt Ozone Layer protection efforts also contribute to fighting with climate change.

World Ozone Day: History (Montreal Protocol)

On 22 March 1985, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was adopted and signed by 28 countries. The Montreal Protocol was signed on 16 September, 1987 on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer and marks the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 49/114 in 1987 chooses this day. Basically, it is an international treaty planned to protect the ozone layer by reducing the production of substances supposed to be responsible for ozone layer depletion. Let us tell you that the Montreal Protocol was implemented on 1 January, 1989.

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).

In 2012, the 20th anniversary of the Montreal protocol was celebrated. Also, on this day Educators teach their students about the benefits of the Ozone layer, and special events and activities are organised to spread awareness.

The Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification on 16 September, 2009.

What is Ozone Pollution and how it affects health?

On 15 October, 2016, at the 28th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer reached an agreement in Kigali, Rwanda to phase-down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This agreement is known as Kigali Agreement.

What is the Ozone Layer?

We all know that ozone protects us from UV rays coming from the sun. In 1957, Professor Gordon Dobson of Oxford University discovered the ozone layer. Ozone is made up of three atoms of oxygen. It is a highly reactive gas and is represented by O3. It occurs naturally as well as a man-made product in the Earth's upper atmosphere,i.e. stratosphere and lower atmosphere,i.e. troposphere. That is the Ozone layer is present in Earth`s atmosphere (15-35km above Earth) in the lower portion of the stratosphere and has relatively high concentrations of ozone (O3). Naturally, it is formed through the interactions of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation with molecular oxygen O2. It reduces the harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface.

But at the ground-level ozone is considered as a major air pollutant. We all know that ozone protects us from harmful UV radiation but ozone at ground level is dangerous and causes pollution. Due to human activities, the ozone layer is getting depleted on the planet which could be very disastrous. It also causes photochemical smog and acid rain.

Causes of Ozone Depletion

The main cause of depletion of the Ozone layer is human activity mainly human-made chemicals that contain chlorine or bromine. These chemicals are known as ODS that is Ozone - Depleting Substances. Since the early 1970's scientists observed a reduction in stratospheric ozone and it was found more prominent in Polar Regions. Do you know that one molecule of chlorine has the capability to break down thousands of ozone molecules? The chief ozone-depleting substances include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and methyl chloroform. Halons, sometimes known as brominated fluorocarbons, also contribute mightily to ozone depletion. ODS substances have a lifetime of about 100 years.

What are the effects of Ozone depletion?

Ozone is responsible for shielding the UV rays from the sun; its depletion may cause severe health hazards. Ozone depletion also impacts the environment adversely by altering the life cycles of plants and disrupting the food chain. Microscopic organisms such as plankton may not survive hence animals dependent on planktons will also not be able to survive. The depletion of the ozone layer may result in a change in wind pattern, leading global warming hence resulting in climatic changes all over the world.

Harmful effects of UV Rays

- It causes skin cancer.

- UV rays cause skin burn.

- Over-exposure to UV radiation weakens the immune system.

- Prolonged exposure to UV rays damages the tissues of the eyes and can cause a 'burning' of the eye surface known as 'snow blindness'.

- UV rays also speed up the aging of the skin.

- Several pigments like the colour used for colouring food, fabric, plastic, paint, ink, dyes, etc. absorb UV and change colour.

Preventive measures to save our planet Earth

  • Use of products which has Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such as hair sprays fresheners, cosmetics, and aerosol in plastic containers should be avoided.
  • Promote activities such as tree planting and backyard gardening.
  • Use Environmental-friendly fertilisers.
  • Prevent excessive smoke emission from your vehicle which causes air pollution. Save on gasoline and crude oil by regular maintenance.
  • Do not burn plastics and rubber tires.

Therefore, World Ozone Day is observed on 16 September to spread awareness about the harmful effects of Ozone depletion and ways to find out preventive measures.

What is Ozone Layer Depletion?

Important Days and Dates in September 2020

Source: un.org

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