Since the scientific discovery of the Ozone hole 35 years ago, The Montreal protocol was signed and amended nine times, all based on careful and systematic input from scientific research. This model of tight interaction between internationally agreed upon policy and results from the research community has been offered as the ideal for which other environmental policies could be based. While there are many unique characteristics of the ozone depletion problem that make it more amenable to international policy agreement than the climate issues facing the world now, it is still the only international agreement that has had a real impact on the environment with measurable and verifiable results.
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer laid out an internationally coordinated plan for the coordination of research related to the monitoring and understanding of changes in Ozone, Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs), and UV radiation. Around the same time, the Clean Air Act in the United States directed both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to maintain research programs with the same goals. Upon the passage of the Montreal Protocol, which requires enforcement limiting the production of ODSs, the Environmental Protection Agency was the best suited agency within the US for such a role.
The observations and research related to ozone continue and are assessed every 4 years through the internationally organized Science and Assessment reports that are provided by the scientific community to the Parties of the Montreal Protocol. This same scientific input is provided to the Vienna Convention mandated Ozone Research Managers meeting that sets recommendations for research to be pursued by the various agencies within the party nations.
Recent findings from these assessments include the onset of gradual recovery of the Ozone Hole as observed in the southern hemisphere spring, obvious signs of recovery in ozone in the upper stratosphere, and evidence of an increased emissions of CFC-11 coming from eastern Asia, which is unexpected given the expected compliance with production allowed under the Montreal Protocol. These findings would not be possible without the continued research programs within the various national research agencies and the coordination provided under the auspices of the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol.
- Kenneth Jucks, Ph.D, Program Scientist, Upper Atmospere Research Program, NASA