The ozone layer, which protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation, is healing from man-made damage, according to a new report from the United Nations.
Experts predict that the layer above the Northern Hemisphere could be fully repaired by the 2030s, and the hole above Antarctica will disappear by the 2060s.
The report comes more than 30 years after the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances.
The announcement is “a rare piece of good news about the environment – and proof of what concerted global action can achieve,” the Huffington Post says.
The thinning in the Earth’s protective shield was first observed in the 1970s. At its worst in the late 1990s, about 10% of the upper ozone layer was depleted, according to Nasa.
But thanks to a global commitment to eliminate the use CFCs in aerosols and coolants, the ozone has increased by 1 to 2% per year since 2000, the UN report found.
“It’s really good news,” said the study’s co-chair Paul Newman, the chief Earth scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre. “If ozone-depleting substances had continued to increase, we would have seen huge effects. We stopped that.”
The Montreal Protocol, lauded as one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history, is credited with preventing two million cases of skin cancer each year by 2030.
However, it not a complete success yet, according to the University of Colorado’s Brian Toon, who was not part of the study. “We are only at a point where recovery may have started,” he told the Associated Press, pointing to some areas of the ozone that haven’t yet repaired.
Another problem is that new technology has found an increase in emissions of a banned CFC out of countries in East Asia, AP reports.
Newman agrees there is still work to do. “I don’t think we can do a victory lap until 2060,” he said. “That will be for our grandchildren to do.”