The European Space Agency delivered some good news for climate change deniers recently: the infamous hole in the ozone over Antarctica is shrinking. In fact, it's shrunk to its smallest size since being discovered decades ago. Does this mean we can call off the Greenpeace army and start driving SUVs everywhere again? Not exactly.
The shrinking hole in the ozone shows well how policy can turn around the negative impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, a 1987 international ban on man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a chemical that used to be found in aerosols, is the direct cause of the ozone repairing itself. Although the ban has been ridiculed from time-to-time, experts are convinced that the strategy is working wonderfully. The ESA announcement comes just a handful of months after NASA released images showing that the hole over Antartica was smaller than its been since 1990, blaming the progress in part on last year's unusually warm weather. Nevertheless, at this rate, the hole in the ozone will close completely before the end of the decade.
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Don't get too excited. If you think this serves as evidence that global warming either doesn't exist or isn't such a bad thing, it's not. The ozone news actually goes to show that nation's working together to address climate change can have a real and noticeable impact in a relatively short amount of time. And we're hardly out of the woods when it comes to saving the ozone, which protects us from ultraviolet rays that cause sunburns. In 2011, scientists discovered a hole above the Arctic Circle for the first time. Researchers have since detailed how holes like these affect not only how quickly you get sunburned but also weather patterns and ocean currents. So hold off on putting a down payment on that Ford Excursion. And if you find yourself vacationing in Antarctica any time soon, you'll still need some sunscreen.
- Nature & Environment