If the world hadn’t joined together to ban ozone-depleting chemicals in the late 1980s under the Montreal Protocol agreement, the Earth would be facing far worse climate change, suggests a new study by Nature.
According to the model’s results, a continuous increase in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were used in aerosols and refrigerators would have caused the collapse of the ozone layer around the world by 2040. harmful to plants and animals.
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Without a ban on these chemical gases, researchers suggest that the tropics would have lost 60% of its ozone cover by 2100. That equates to an even bigger hole than the one that formed over Antarctica in the early 1980s.
Exposure to direct radiation would harm plant tissues, drastically slowing their growth and impairing their photosynthesis capacity in many parts of the world.
If the protection of the ozone layer had not taken place, it is also estimated that by 2100, CFCs would have prevented forests, soils and other vegetation from absorbing 580 billion tons of carbon dioxide. This would increase its concentration in the atmosphere by 40 to 50 percent of what it currently does.
Which would cause an extra 0.8 °C warming at the end of the century.
However, CFCs themselves are greenhouse gases, and if we hadn’t banned them when we did, researchers predicted they would have contributed to an additional 1.7°C global warming by 2100.
In total, this is 2.5 °C of warming that we were able to avoid by adhering to the Montreal Protocol.
Considering that today we are trying to reduce our fossil fuel emissions to keep warming below 2°C, we can see how successful we have been in protecting the ozone layer.
Still, that doesn’t mean we’re in good condition on Earth. The world still has a lot of work to do to reverse our fossil fuel emissions. At the same time, we cannot be relaxed about CFCs.
Because, while the results of this research speak of the success of the Montreal Protocol, they also suggest its possible failures. If one day the agreement falls into disrespect, it could end our opportunity to mitigate the climate crisis.
A few years ago, scientists found a source of CFC that appeared to be increasing. The emissions were later discovered to originate in China, in a highly industrial zone that was probably illegally producing the chemical.
Many people do not believe that governments will make the necessary changes to slow global warming in the coming decades. However, the Montreal Protocol showed what can be achieved when the world puts its collective mind to a task.
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