The ozone layer — the atmospheric shield that prevents harmful ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth’s surface — is on track to recover, United Nations (U.N.) scientists said on Monday.
In the report, which is issued once every four years, the U.N. said the ozone layer has shown recovery and will return to its 1980 levels over the next several decades.
The ozone layer prevents exposure to ultraviolet light, which can cause skin cancer and other health problems. It can also harm animals and plants.
Human use of ozone-depleting substances — like the chemicals used in refrigeration and fire suppression — were harming the protective barrier, prompting global concern for years.
In 1987, countries including the U.S. agreed to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to reduce the consumption and production of ozone-depleting substances.
The new report says that this agreement was particularly important to the current path toward restoration, which it said will occur for most of the world by 2040.
However, recovery around the Arctic and Antarctic will take longer — by 2045 and 2066 respectively, according to the report.
The report specifically noted that China had decreased its emissions of certain substances in recent years, contributing to the overall decline.
The authors also said that the recovery also helped evade some global warming.
World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement that the work the world did to restore the ozone layer could be used as a model for tackling climate change.
“Ozone action sets a precedent for climate action,” Taalas said. “Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done — as a matter of urgency — to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.”
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