Sunday, September 04, 2005

SCIENTISTS REPORT GOOD NEWS ON OZONE LAYER

Notwithstanding the recent news and signs of global warming, as well as the human contributions to that menace, there is some good news to report on the environmental front.

This week, U.S. scientists reported that the ozone layer has stopped shrinking, but it will take decades to begin recovering.

The announcement is a hopeful example of the positive results that can be achieved when the nations of the world band together in a united effort to stop, or curb, environmental damage and degradation.

The scientists said that the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which was ratified by more than 180 nations and set legally binding controls for on the production and consumption of ozone-depleting gases containing chlorine and bromine, is apparently working and should be credited.

"These early signs indicate one of the strongest success stories of international cooperation in the face of an environmental threat," said Conrad Lautenbacher of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Though the evidence indicates that the ozone layer is still well below normal levels, it has grown a bit thicker in some parts of the world.

Unfortunately, the report wasn't all good news. The scientists also noted it's unlikely the ozone will stabilize at previous levels and, because it remains so thin, cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation is still getting through. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the the U.S. and the incidence of melanoma has doubled in the last 30 years.

"Chemicals pumped into Earth's atmosphere decades ago still are affecting ozone levels today," said Sherwood Roland of the University of California Irvine. "This problem was a long time in the making, and because of the persistence of these chlorine compounds, there is no short-term fix."

While that may be true, it's certainly best to look at the bright side of this issue and see the cup as half full. This is proof that international agreements and coordinated efforts can thwart, and perhaps even fix, environmental damage caused by humans. It should provide inspiration and even impetus toward the goal of lowering, and eventually eliminating, manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

Although mankind can clearly be part of the problem, it is encouraging to see that we can also be part of the solution.

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