Extreme Wildfires Are Destroying Ozone Layer Progress

Extreme Wildfires Are Destroying Ozone Layer Progress

The Montreal Protocol was created in 1987 to phase out the consumption and production of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) that cause severe damage to Earth’s protective ozone layer. It was subsequently adopted by every country on Earth and has facilitated the ozone’s recovery over the past couple of decades. Recently, however, scientists have discovered that extreme wildfires with smoke columns that reach the stratosphere -- where the ozone layer exists -- can reverse years of healing in just a matter of weeks. Australia’s Black Summer wildfires in early 2020 released enough smoke to deplete the ozone layer by 1%, according to a new study authored by MIT scientist Susan Solomon. That’s the same amount of progress the ozone layer has made per decade since the Montreal Protocol.

MSNBC: Climate Change Is Our Greatest Existential Threat, January 3, 2022.

Why This Matters

The ozone layer is a protective layer located about six through thirty miles above Earth’s surface. Made up of ozone molecules, a highly reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms, it is extremely effective at absorbing radiation from the sun, particularly UVB light, which can cause skin cancer, eye damage, and harm to crops and marine life. Ozone depletion from wildfire smoke increases the amount of UV light that reaches the earth’s surface, posing a threat to all living things and potentially making the Earth uninhabitable. Destruction of the ozone layer can occur significantly faster than repair, so it is imperative that preemptive measures are taken to protect it.

Mongabay: Did the world fix the hole in the ozone layer?, April 7, 2021.

Preventing Wildfires To Protect The Ozone Layer

The intensity and frequency of wildfires have drastically increased over the last couple of decades because of climate change, and with news that it is affecting the health of the ozone layer, wildfires could be even more deadly. Allocating resources and funding for proper forest management is one solution to preventing extreme wildfires from occurring. Removing dead trees and vegetation that can then be turned into renewable fuels for revenue will simultaneously keep forests healthy and pay for itself. Additionally, supporting and passing laws like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 will protect and foster healthy forests that can better withstand wildfires. However, the long-term and best solution to preventing wildfires and protecting the ozone layer is to phase out fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions that cause global warming and dry conditions.

Guardian: The climate science behind wildfires - why are they getting worse?, August 20, 2021.

WW0: Dr. Alex Hall & Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali Discuss the California Fires and Climate Change, September 30, 2020.