I n respect of the sustenance of the widely observed Montreal Protocol, on 19th December 1994, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed September 16 annually as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. This implies that penultimate week, the global community commemorated the 2022 edition of the lofty annual event.
It’s noteworthy that the day focuses on the importance of protecting human health and the environment in general. The Ozone layer is a fragile shield of gases that protects the Earth from the harmful ultraviolet radiation or rays of the Sun as well as helps to keep it warm, thereby helping to preserve lives on the planet. The layer is composed of ozone, a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms bonded together by a covalent bond.
Ozone has the chemical formula O3. The ozone layer is essential, because it filters harmful ultraviolet radiation as it travels from the Sun to the surface of the Earth. These ultraviolet rays can harm both plant and animal lives. The Ozone layer is located in the stratosphere, a region of the atmosphere that is about 10 to 50 kilometres above the earth.
The stratosphere comprises approximately 90 percent Ozone. The ozone layer, which is part of the stratosphere, comprises the major atmospheric gases, such as nitrogen, oxygen and argon, but also contains a significantly higher concentration of the trace gas ozone than the other layers of the atmosphere.
The trace gases include carbon dioxide, neon, helium, methane, and the manmade chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The CFCs reaching the stratosphere from the earth’s surface has become a cause for global concern because of the role they play in the chemical reaction that removes ozone from the atmosphere. Mankind have, over the decades, been bewildered by so many environmental hazards and challenges. Currently, the worst of all is mainly attributable to depletion of the ozone layer.
A number of commonly used chemicals like halocarbons and/or organic compounds has been found to be extremely damaging to the ozone layer. Halocarbons are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked to one or more halogen atoms such as fluorine, chlorine and bromine. The halocarbons containing bromine usually have much higher Ozone-Depleting Potential (ODP) than those that consist of chlorine or others.
The manmade chemicals that have provided most of the chlorine and bromine for ozone depletion are methyl-bromide, Opinion methyl-chloroform, carbontetrachloride, and families of chemicals known as halons, chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. Also, the damaging impact of organic compounds like carbon- monoxide on the ozone layer cannot be overemphasized. Some of the human activities that result in this environmental menace are bush-burning and industrial combustion.
The scientific confirmation of the depletion of the ozone layer prompted the international community to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take drastic action to protect the ozone layer. This was formalized in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which was adopted by 28 countries on 22nd March 1985. In September 1987, this led to the drafting of the Treaty on The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which was duly signed by all the UN Member States.
The fundamental aim of the Montreal Protocol is to protect the ozone layer by taking severe measures to control total global production and consumption of substances that deplete it, with the ultimate target toward their elimination from the basis of developments in scientific knowledge and technological information.
In view of the steady progress made under the Montreal Protocol, in 2003, the then UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, of the blessed memory, stated thus, “Perhaps the single most successful international agreement till date has been the Montreal Protocol.”
Similarly, during the 2013 commemoration of the Day, which was marked with the theme ‘A healthy Atmosphere: the Future we want’, in his message to the world, the immediate past Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki-moon commended all who had made the Montreal Protocol such an outstanding example of international cooperation.
He went further to urge governments, industries, civil societies, and other partners to apply the same spirit to the other great environmental and developmental challenges of our time. The phase-out of controlled uses of ozone depleting substances has not only helped to protect the ozone-layer, but has contributed immensely and significantly to global efforts of addressing climate change.
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to advocate for the ozone layer preservation, we are expected to contribute our quota with a view to ensuring we actualize an atmosphere or environment that is totally free from any harmful substance. We can achieve this by embarking on or sponsoring, as the case may be, all forms of awareness campaigns targeted toward thorough sensitization of the general public on the dangers inherent in uncalled domestic and industrial acts.
Nigeria as a country can encourage this annual event by implementing severe policies that would help to eradicate all the activities opposing the preservation of the ozone layer such as bush burning, inapt use of generators and other household mechanical devices, coupled with other industrial practices that exhibit carbon-monoxide (smoke) alongside other substances that negatively affect the ozone layer.
A strict and formidable law, to be enacted by the legislators, would help to rigorously address the aforementioned anomalies, if duly implemented. Hence, legislation remains a major tool in this global crusade. It’s worth noting that only a sound value system can guarantee a viable environmental condition, and such cannot be actualized without adequate policies and reorientation.
People need to fully comprehend that, excessive amounts of ultraviolet penetration pose both health and safety risks for all organisms, including humans; that, without a protective layer of cloud cover, organisms are vulnerable to the Sun’s rays, which can cause skin cancer as well as contribute to the development of cataracts and what have you.
These rays equally reduce the ability of organisms, such as plants and phytoplankton, to reproduce. It may also disrupt the reproductive cycles of fish, shrimp and other shellfishes.
On the other hand, air pollution prevents the ozone layer from blocking excessive heat emitted by the sun, which in turn warms surrounding environments, thereby resulting in glacier melt and ice thaws. These, among others, are some vital and basic facts people need to be sensitized on.
The Information ministry in collaboration with its Environment counterpart, via the effort of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), would be of immense help in this regard.
Considering the social and economic implications of the ozone-layer’s depletion, it’s needless to reiterate that stringent measures and regulations are required with a view to ensuring the ongoing environmental degradation becomes a thing of the past, towards actualizing a complete hazard-free atmosphere. Think about it!