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Ozone is a naturally occurring molecule containing three atoms of

oxygen. Ozone molecules form a gaseous layer mostly in the upper


atmosphere (the stratosphere) 15-30 km above the surface of the
earth, and protects life on earth by absorbing ultra-violet (UV)
radiation from the sun.
The stratospheric ozone layer protects life on Earth by absorbing
ultra-violet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV radiation is linked to
skin cancer, genetic damage and immune system suppression in
living organisms, and reduced productivity in agricultural crops
and the food chain.
Scientific evidence has proven that the natural balance of
stratospheric ozone has been upset by the production and release
into the atmosphere of ozone depleting substances, including
chlorofluorocarbons CFC, halons, CH
3
CCl
3
(Methyl chloroform),
carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and
methyl bromide. These substances have applications in
refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers, aerosols,
agricultural fumigants, in foam and as solvents for cleaning
electronic equipment.

WHAT IS THE OZONE LAYER?

OZONE LAYER DEPLETION

CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), halons, CH
3
CCl
3
(Methyl chloroform),
CCl
4
(Carbon tetrachloride), HCFCs (hydro-chlorofluorocarbons),
hydrobromofluorocarbons and methyl bromide are directly
implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer. These gases deplete
the ozone layer by releasing chlorine and bromine atoms into the
stratosphere, which destroy ozone molecules. These and other
ozone depleting substances also contribute to varying extents to
the enhanced greenhouse effect.
The ozone layer is depleted in two ways. Firstly, the ozone layer in
the mid-latitude (e.g. over Australia) is thinned, leading to more UV
radiation reaching the earth. Data collected in the upper
atmosphere have shown that there has been a general thinning of
the ozone layer over most of the globe. This includes a five to nine
per cent depletion over Australia since the 1960s, which has
increased the risk that Australians already face from over-
exposure to UV radiation resulting from our outdoor lifestyle.
Secondly, the ozone layer over Antarctica is dramatically thinned
in spring, leading to the `ozone hole.
ANTARCTIC OZONE HOLE

What is it?
The Antarctic ozone hole is a dramatic thinning of ozone in the stratosphere over
Antarctica each spring. This damage is due not only to the availability of ozone-
depleting substances in the stratosphere, but also specific meteorological
conditions that facilitate the destruction of ozone over Antarctica.
What has happened so far?
The ozone holes in 2000 and 2006 were the largest on record, measuring around
29.8 and 29.6 million square kilometres respectively (more than three and a half
times the size of Australia), and at times extended over populated areas.
The 2002 and 2004 ozone holes were much smaller, due in large part to the
disruption of the hole by other weather conditions in the troposphere and
stratosphere.
The future
Prospects for the long-term recovery of the ozone layer are good. Non-essential
consumption of major ozone depleting substances ceased for developed
countries in 1996, and for developing countries in 2010.
Scientists predict that if the international community continues to comply with the
Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer should recover to pre-1980 levels between
2050 and 2065.

PUBLIC POLICY IN RESPONSE TO THE
OZONE HOLE

Environmentalists assert that the CFCs have caused so
much damage to the ozone layer that the use of CFCs
should be banned.The full extent of this damage CFCs
have caused is not known and will not be known for
decades; however marked decreases in column ozone
have already been observed (see above).
In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed, controlling
the emissions of CFCs. To some extent, their role has
been replaced by the less damaging hydro-chloro-
fluoro-carbons (HCFCs), although concerns remain
regarding HCFCs as well.