Getting every nation on Earth to agree on an environmental issue is tough, but it has been done before. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, or just the Montreal Protocol, is the most successful step we’ve taken to protect our planet to date, but getting there wasn’t easy.
When you hear about the ozone layer you probably think of aerosol cans, but the story actually begins with air travel. In the early 1970s, jet setting around the world took off, and curious scientists started gathering data on how airplanes were affecting Earth’s atmosphere.
Ozone is a vital molecule of three oxygen atoms that exists mainly in the stratosphere, but it’s very rare; there are only about three molecules of ozone for every 10 million molecules of air. Still, those .3 parts per million of ozone play a critical role of absorbing biologically damaging UV-B sunlight.
At the time, ozone had already been studied, but Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina threw ozone into the spotlight.They posited that chlorine atoms from refrigerators and AC units might have an adverse effect on our atmosphere. And boy were they right. It turns out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can actually float all the way up to the ozone layer. And when they get there, the CFCs run rampant!