How hot will it be this summer? Perhaps it can reach another record high temperature again. This year, you must have seen flowers that bloomed earlier than normal and noticed that the outside atmosphere looks murky due to fine dust in the morning. Most of us are aware of the serious state of the environment, and we wonder if our efforts to preserve the environment can protect the Earth. Here is the result of our efforts-the recovery of the ozone layer.
According to a UN report released on January 9, 2023, the ozone layer is showing a clear recovery. The ozone layer is a protective shield that surrounds the Earth and prevents harmful substances from space and the Sun from entering our atmosphere, including harmful ultraviolent rays. The altitude of the ozone layer is 15km to 30km from the surface of the Earth. It is located in the stratosphere and is composed of highly concentrated oxygen molecules. The strong oxidizing power of ozone is useful for sterilizing sewage and removing odors, and it also acts as a protective film for the Earth by creating an ozone layer in the atmosphere. However, ozone is not always beneficial to humans. When ozone is formed on the surface, it becomes a harmful air pollutant that harms humans and plants. Therefore, it could damage various areas including skin, cells, and lungs.
The Depletion of the Ozone Layer
The depletion of the ozone layer has been recorded since the 1960s and 1970s. An ozone hole occurs when ozone decreases in the ozone layer and forms what looks like holes. It is mainly observed in the polar regions and is characterized by appearing almost every year in Antarctica. The cause was found to be the use of substances such as fluorocarbon gas and carbon chloride. These substances can remain more than decades in the Earth’s atmosphere while depleting the ozone layer. To prevent further ozone depletion, the UN adopted the Montreal Protocol in September 1987, which includes regulations on ozone-depleting substances, and announced it in January 1989. The world promised to gradually reduce the amount of substances that destroy the ozone layer. Since then, there have been many efforts like development of alternative substances. In South Korea, the use of fluorocarbon gas has been banned since 2010.
What will happen to us if the ozone layer is depleted?
Organisms in the Earth will be exposed to more ultraviolet rays from the Sun. The plants and plankton affected by ultraviolet rays can destroy balanced ecosystem. In addition, human can suffer from various diseases from ultraviolet rays like cataracts and skin cancer. The more ozone is depleted, the more glaciers can melt. And there are many countries in danger of being submerged such as Palau, Marshall Islands, Maldives, and Samoa. But if the ozone layer is recovering, will these consequences happen less? The answer is ‘No’ because the ozone layer can be changed depending on the temperature. Just because the ozone layer is recovering, does not mean it will last. It is true that international efforts to reduce ozone-depleting substances have certainly resulted in the recovery of the ozone layer. That is why the Montreal Protocol is regarded as a successful agreement. However, the climate crisis is affecting us all and we must remember it is happening to everyone.
How to know the ozone index?
Now that you understand the importance of ozone, here is some information on how to know the ozone index. The index also has a level at which warnings occur. If you visit Air Korea’s website (airkorea.or.kr), you can check the real-time ozone index and past alerts in South Korea. And the YouTube video titled ‘Let’s stay healthy in the summer with six precautions!’ posted on the Ministry of Environment channel introduces guidelines for enduring high-frequency ozone this summer. The video includes these contents: check the daily ozone level, avoid extreme outdoor exercise, conduct indoor learning at educational institutions, use public transportation, reduce the use of oil paints, dry cleaning chemicals, and sprays and refuel a car in the morning or evening.
Precious days filled with our efforts
We all know that the future of the Earth is not so bright, but ozone recovery gives us a little time. Since humans were able to deal with COVID-19 to some extent, most people have returned to their normal daily lives. However, this daily life was given to us by medical staffs from around the world and those who had been delaying plans with friends for a while and keeping distance guidelines just as you did. We must remember that every day is precious, and the recovery of the ozone layer is equally precious. The ozone layer responded when the world kept its promise. Action for the environment is the most altruistic act for all beings. Pollution and climate changes that have already occurred will continue and damage our lives. However, you need to believe in change. You can do something for environment in a day. It is something that only you can do. So do it right now.