From Ozone Repair to Climate Care: The Montreal Protocol's Journey into 2023 World


1.      Introduction

The stratospheric ozone layer, situated approximately 10 to 50 kilometers above Earth's surface, plays a pivotal role in shielding life by absorbing over 97-99% of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation (Seifer, 2023). A 1% decline in ozone concentration can result in a 2% increase in UV radiation on Earth's surface, potentially leading to a rise in skin cancers and cataracts, among other environmental and health problems (Herman et al., 2023; Narayanan et al., 2010). Historically, by the late 20th century, anthropogenic emissions of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) resulted in a 4% decline in the global average ozone concentration compared to pre-1980 levels. This paved the way for the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which remarkably led to the phasing out of 98% of all global ODS production. World Ozone Day, commemorated annually on September 16th, underscores the necessity of ozone layer preservation. The 2023 theme, "Montreal Protocol: fixing the ozone layer and reducing climate change", aptly accentuates the Protocol's dual significance: while CFCs alone once contributed equivalent to over 10 billion tons of CO2 to global warming annually, The Protocol's interventions not only aim to rejuvenate the ozone layer but also indirectly prevent around 135 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050, making a significant contribution to the fight against climate change (Barnes et al., 2023; Dreyfus et al., 2022).

2.      Historical Background

The ozone layer's existence was first posited by French physicists Charles Fabry and Henri Buisson in the early 20th century. Spectrometer measurements confirmed a concentration of ozone molecules in the stratosphere with an average thickness equivalent to about 3mm at standard surface pressure, despite spanning a wide altitude range of approximately 10 to 50 kilometres above Earth's surface. This gaseous envelope is extremely important because it serves as Earth's major defence against the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, screening out around 97-99% of the dangerous UVB rays. By the mid-20th century, however, anthropogenic activities began posing latent threats to its stability (Fuentes-Tristan et al., 2019).

In the 1970s, research spearheaded by scientists Mario Molina and Rowland Sherwood pinpointed chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) chemicals then ubiquitously used in refrigerants, aerosol propellants, and foam-blowing agents as primary culprits behind ozone depletion. Their research showed that when CFCs reach the stratosphere, they emit chlorine atoms when they contact with UV rays, each of which can damage tens of thousands of ozone molecules over their lifetime in the atmosphere. By the 1980s, satellite imagery and ground-based observations revealed an alarming manifestation of this depletion, a recurring "ozone hole" over Antarctica that grew to span a staggering 29 million square kilometers by 1985, which was almost 3 times the area of the entire continent (Paleri, 2022).

Responding to the impending ecological crisis, the international community galvanized into action. 1987 witnessed the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This historic convention, which was later accepted by all 197 united governments’ member countries, committed governments to phase out the production and consumption of a variety of ozone-depleting compounds, beginning with CFCs. Because of global adherence to the Montreal Protocol's provisions, levels of several dangerous compounds began to drop by the early twenty-first century, marking a historic step towards the eventual healing of the ozone layer.

3.      Montreal Protocol: A Beacon of International Cooperation

Key Aspects of the Protocol: The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, is heralded as one of the most successful environmental agreements to date. Its central mandate revolves around the systematic reduction and eventual elimination of ozone depleting substances (ODS). The Protocol specifies certain drugs and their respective phase-out schedules, which are divided into industrialized and developing countries, with the latter receiving more flexible timelines to facilitate economic shifts. It also includes a dynamic structure that allows for revisions and adjustments depending on the most recent scientific, environmental, technical, and economic information. The Multilateral Fund, established in 1991, symbolizes another pivotal aspect, assisting developing countries in fulfilling the Protocol's provisions through financial cooperation and technology transfer.

Countries Involved and it’s Universal Ratification: Beginning with 24 countries and the European Economic Community at its inception, the Montreal Protocol has since achieved a monumental feat: universal ratification. As of 2009, all 197 United Nations member countries had ratified the treaty, making it the first treaty in the organization's history to do so. This unanimity emphasises the Protocol's relevance and the widespread recognition of the need to safeguard the ozone layer.

Progress over the Years: Phasing Out of Major Ozone-Depleting Substances: The Protocol's impact over the decades is undeniable. As a direct result of its stipulations, over 99% of the globally produced ODS, over a billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions have been eliminated. This includes the total worldwide phase-out of several important ODS groups, including halons by 2010, carbon tetrachloride by 2010, and CFCs by 2010 (with a later deadline of 2030 for developing nations) (OSIMIRI et al.). Table 1 elaborating the Montreal Protocol's Impact on Ozone Layer and Climate Change. The data also reveals an encouraging trend, the concentration of key ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere, such as CFC-11 and CFC-12, has witnessed a decline since the late 20th century. Forecasts based on current trajectories predict the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere will heal by the 2030s, followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and Polar Regions by 2060.

Table 1: Montreal Protocol's Impact on Ozone Layer and Climate Change

Data Point


Reference Year

Ozone layer thickness (average)


Before 1980 (Abbasi et al., 2017)

Ozone concentration decrease due to ODS


Late 20th Century (Solomon et al., 2015)

ODS phased out due to Montreal Protocol


Up to 2021 (Andersen et al., 2021)

Maximum size of ozone hole

29 million km²

1985 (Solomon et al., 2016)

Reduced size of ozone hole

16 million km²

2020 (Newman et al., 2006)

CFC-12 Global Warming Potential (GWP) relative to CO2

10,900 times

N/A (Gallagher et al., 2014)

HCFC-22 GWP relative to CO2

1,810 times

N/A (Zhang et al., 2017)

Temperature rise prevention by Kigali Amendment by 2100

up to 0.5°C

Forecasted (Purohit et al., 2020)

CO2-equivalent emissions averted by Protocol

135 billion tonnes

1990 to 2010 (Protocol, 1997)

This table provides a snapshot of some key numerical data points regarding the ozone layer and the impact of the Montreal Protocol.

4.      Impact on the Ozone Layer: Signs of Healing

Scientific Evidence and Research: Decades of meticulous scientific research and monitoring have provided robust evidence of the positive impact of the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer. A vast body of data collected through ground-based observations, satellite instruments, and stratospheric balloon campaigns consistently demonstrates the decline in ozone-depleting substances (ODS) in the atmosphere and corresponding improvements in ozone concentration.

Reduction in the Size of the Ozone Hole: One of the most compelling indicators of recovery is the noticeable reduction in the size and severity of the Antarctic ozone hole. Data from NASA's satellite-based Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and the European Space Agency's Atmospheric Monitoring Instrument (SCIAMACHY) show a consistent shrinking of the ozone hole since the Protocol's implementation. For example, the ozone hole reached its highest extent in the early 2000s, covering an area of around 29 million square kilometres. Subsequent years have witnessed a contraction, with the 2020 “Ozone Hole” size reduced to about 16 million square kilometers, showcasing a significant improvement.

Gradual Increase in Ozone Concentrations: Stratospheric ozone concentrations have also exhibited a steady increase in response to the Protocol's measures. Ground-based measurements and satellite data have revealed a progressive recovery in ozone levels, particularly in the mid-latitudes and upper stratosphere. While the recovery rates may vary by region and altitude, these upward trends underscore the Protocol's effectiveness in curbing ozone depletion.

Forecast for Complete Recovery: Challenges and Prospects: The forecast for the complete recovery of the ozone layer is optimistic but contingent on various factors. If the Montreal Protocol is followed as predicted, scientific models predict that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere will recover by the 2030s, followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s. However, full ozone layer rebuilding in Polar Regions may take until the 2060s. There are still challenges, including as monitoring and compliance by all parties, the phase-out of residual ODS, and the introduction of new compounds that may endanger ozone. Additionally, climate change may influence the timeline and pattern of recovery, making it crucial to address both environmental issues in tandem. The ongoing commitment of nations to the Protocol, coupled with continued scientific research and international cooperation, will be pivotal in ensuring the complete healing of the ozone layer.

5. Montreal Protocol and Climate Change

The Indirect Benefit: Reduction in Greenhouse Gases:

Beyond its primary mission of preserving the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol has provided an inadvertent but monumental benefit to the fight against climate change. Many ozone-depleting substances (ODS), particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), are powerful greenhouse gases with global warming potentials (GWPs) hundreds of times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, their phase-out not only arrested ozone depletion but also significantly reduced global greenhouse gas emissions. The Protocol is estimated to have averted more than 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from 1990 to 2010.

How Phasing Out CFCs and HCFCs Reduced Global Warming Potential:

CFCs and HCFCs have extremely high GWPs. For example, CFC-12 has a GWP 10,900 times that of CO2, while HCFC-22's GWP is 1,810 times higher. The Montreal Protocol's hardline position on phasing out these substances has significantly reduced emissions with high warming potential, aiding in the mitigation of global warming. By 2010, CFC emissions had reduced by more than 90%, and HCFC emissions reductions were well started, transforming the Protocol into an unintentional but strong climate change pact.

The Kigali Amendment: Targeting Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) for Climate Benefits:

Recognizing that some solutions to the ozone crisis posed their own environmental challenges, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was adopted in 2016. While hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were introduced as alternatives to CFCs and HCFCs due to their negligible ozone depletion potential, they are potent greenhouse gases. The goal of this amendment is to reduce the use of HFCs by 80% by 2045. Achieving the Kigali Amendment's goals could prevent up to 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century (Ou et al., 2022).

6. Personal and Societal Actions to Support Ozone Layer Recovery

Consumer Choices: Opting for Ozone-friendly Products:

Consumers wield significant power through their purchasing decisions. Opting for products free from HFCs, such as air conditioners and refrigerators using ozone-friendly refrigerants, is a tangible step towards ozone recovery. Additionally, steering clear of aerosol products containing harmful propellants can further curb the release of ozone-depleting substances.

Support for Policies and Initiatives Aligned with the Montreal Protocol's Goals:

Individuals can champion the cause by supporting local, national, and international policies that adhere to or enhance the objectives of the Montreal Protocol. This includes voting for eco-conscious representatives, backing green initiatives, or even participating in public consultations and forums.

Spreading Awareness and Education:

The basis for substantial change is knowledge. A well informed community prepared for collective action can be fostered through organizing or taking part in community workshops, school seminars, or public campaigns that teach about the ozone layer, its relevance, and the significance of the Montreal Protocol. Additionally, utilising social media channels to their full potential can increase the effect and reach of such instructional initiatives.

7. Success Stories and Innovations

Countries that Made Remarkable Progress:

Many nations have demonstrated exemplary commitment to the Montreal Protocol's mandates. For instance:

  • Sweden became one of the first countries to phase out the use of CFCs entirely by 1996.
  • India exceeded its commitment by not only achieving but also advancing its CFC phase-out schedule by two years.
  • China, once a major CFC producer, successfully transitioned to alternatives, considerably reducing its ODS emissions.

Innovations and Technologies Replacing Ozone-depleting Substances:

The urgency of the ozone crisis catalyzed a slew of innovations:

  • Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) have shown promise as HFC substitutes. Because of their lower GWPs and shorter atmospheric lifetimes, they are advantageous.
  • Technological advances in air conditioning and refrigeration systems have allowed for more efficient and environmentally-friendly designs.
  • CO2-based refrigeration systems have gained traction, particularly in large-scale applications like supermarkets.

8. Future Projections and the Role of Youth

The Importance of the Next Generation in Maintaining the Momentum:

The youth are not just beneficiaries of a recovering ozone layer and stable climate; they are crucial actors in these endeavors. Their energy, idealism, and adaptability make them potent agents for enduring change.

Youth Initiatives and Movements Supporting Environmental Preservation:

Young people all across the world are organizing to demand environmental justice and preservation, from local and regional youth-led projects to large-scale movements like Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future. Their enthusiasm and dedication are evident in the marches, campaigns, and online mobilization activities.

Encouraging Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Science, Policy, and Public Action:

The youth are well positioned to develop collaborations that transcend traditional silos since they have received interdisciplinary education and have a holistic perspective. For comprehensive environmental solutions, their efforts to combine scientific research, policy lobbying, and grassroots mobilization are crucial.

9. Conclusion

The Montreal Protocol is without a doubt one of the most effective environmental treaties ever signed as we look back on its history. Its victories are proof of what humanity is capable of when brought together for a shared goal. But this voyage is far from over. The collaborative vigilance and dedication of governments, communities, and individuals continue to be crucial as the Protocol develops to handle new issues and as the world moves closer to having a healed ozone layer. The aim for peaceful coexistence with nature is more general than just restoring the ozone layer. A future in which the skies above protect life below and every person is aware of their responsibility to protect our shared world.


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About the Author: Qudrat Ullah is an MPhil student of Environmental Science at Government College University Faisalabad. He is dedicated and motivated individual with a passion for exploring the impact of human activities on the environment. He aims to contribute towards creating a sustainable and healthy environment for the present and future generations.

Ans Mahmood, MPhil in Environmental Science, is an author and researcher focused on sustainability and environmental policy.

Muhammad Qasim is an MPhil in Environmental Science. With a passion for sustainability and conservation, I’m dedicated my career to advocating for the protection of the environment.

Ubaid Ullah, BS Hon’s in Physics, is an accomplished author.



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