20 Year's Reflection on Montreal

Author:  Buttino Nicholas

Date:  September 2007

On September 16th, 1987 several nations met in Montreal to discuss the causes and solutions of the growing ozone hole over the Antarctic. Many of these nations signed the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to limit the production of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since then, a total of 191 countries have signed the protocol, amendments have strengthened the limitations to CFC productions, and monitoring technologies have improved.

The protocol limits CFC production because CFCs, originally used as propellants and refrigeration coolants, react in the stratosphere to break down ozone molecules. Depletion of ozone concerns law makers because the ozone provides much of our protection against ultra-violet (UV) light.

While several amendments have hastened the elimination of CFCs current monitoring continues to indicate a large and slowly shrinking ozone-hole over the Southern Hemisphere (figure 1). The ozone hole exposes people in Australia and southern South America to higher risks of developing skin cancers and cataracts.

Dr. Richard Stolarski of NASA's Space Flight Center acknowledges that the ozone hole is far from closed, but suggests that there is still much that we can do. His team "continue[s] to measure not just ozone by all chemicals involved" in global atmosphere cycles.

His work with the AURA satellite allows governments to generate detailed images, such as that shown above. According to Dr. Stolarski, such mapping techniques are particularly useful for forecasting, knowing present location and severity of the ozone hole gives people better information to protect themselves.

Continued monitoring also aids in determining how to effectively make new regulations. Many of the 191 nations that signed the original Montreal Protocol have again assembled in Montreal to workout an agreement to limit other ozone depleting substances. Dr. Stolarski and others hope that such efforts will continue to improve the ozone layer and reduce UV concentrations.

Author: Nicholas Buttino

Reviewed by: Sunil Rangarajan

Published by: Konrad Sawicki