UN sees signs ozone layer is recovering

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NEW YORK: There are signs that the Earth’s protective ozone layer is recovering because of the regulation of ozone-damaging gases, according to a new report jointly released by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

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“We have seen evidence of a decline in ozone-depleting substances over the past decade,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UNEP, said at a news conference to launch the report. It is the first comprehensive update produced by scientists in four years.

“Now we are starting to see increasingly encouraging signs from ozone measurements that the ozone layer is on track to recovery by the middle of the century,” Steiner added.

Ozone layers that surround the Earth block harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, thus helping protect people against skin cancer, for example.

While Steiner stressed the positive signs, he cautioned that the rapid increase in certain substitutes for ozone-depleting substances has potential to undermine the gains that have been made.

“The work on ozone-depleting substances is perhaps one of the great success stories, not only of science or policy, but of nations beginning to act together on the basis of science by putting in place the Montreal Protocol,” he said.

After the protocol took effect in 1989, chloroflourorcarbons and halons, once used products for refrigerators, spray cans and insulation foams, were banned or phased out. Not subject to the regime, hydrofluorocarbons, developed as substitutes, are known to cause powerful greenhouse gas effects.

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