Ozone Depletion Cause and Effects
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When we talk about the ozone depletion, one has to put in mind and have some knowledge about the ozone and the ozone layer. The ozone is known to be a bluish gas which is formed by three atoms of oxygen. this oxygen atoms are normally located in the earth’s upper atmosphere and also at the ground level and it is used to absorb the solar radiation strongly at wavelengths around 300nm thus protecting the biosphere from harmful radiation. This forms the ozone layer which is known to protect the people and animals’s health and their environment that may be caused by the ultraviolet rays which are normally sent down by the sun and this ultraviolet ray normally affects the health of a human being by causing the health issues such as the skin cancers, eye cataracts, immune system deficiencies and other health complication. The issue of the ozone depletion came about or was discovered in the mid 1980s and the main cause for that depletion was the release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide and other chemicals. The first victims of this ozone destruction were Antarctica. This caused a massive hole, approximately 9 million square miles in the ozone layer right above the Antarctica hence threatening not only that continent but many others could fall victims of the Antarctica’s melting icecaps. Ever since, this has triggered many discussions and researches so as to find out the possible cause and the effects it might create when this ozone depletion occurs. These researches have also led to many wanting to find the solution for that problem.
Ozone depletion is reducing the blanket hence enhancing the deadly UV-radiations to reach the earth surface thus causing the increased temperatures. When there is global warming, the ocean levels also rises, low planting productivity is experienced. the climate is also affected because it keeps on changing every now and then. One needs to note that the ozone depletion may become a challenge when fighting the global warming. This is as a result of the destruction of the planktons in the oceans caused by the UV radiations from the sun. One may wonder why the plankton but one needs to understand that planktons are very important in the oceans because they are responsible for the absorption of the carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere which is believed to be very dangerous because the gas itself is a chemical that maybe very dangerous thus leading to the construction of the conservatory for such gases.
This greenhouse gas is known to be transparent to the incoming solar radiation and it captures the long-wave infrared radiation from the earth. Some of this green house gases are such as the water vapor, carbon dioxide, Ozone (O3), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) even though O3, CH4 and N2O are known to contribute only 5% to the greenhouse effect (Bhargava, 2004). The sun’s short-wave radiations are allowed to pass freely by both the atmosphere and the greenhouse glass but during the passage, they trap the outgoing long-wave radiation. In contrast to the greenhouses, however, the atmosphere allows the heated air to be cooled by the natural convective mixing.
Nevertheless, some few factors when brought together, they create this problem of the ozone layer depletion. These factors can be such as the increase when it comes to the level of free radicals. These free radicals can be hydroxyl radicals, nitric radicals and atomic chlorine and bromine. But the biggest compound which counts to almost 80% of the ozone depletion in the stratosphere is the production and the emission of the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by the human activities which are commonly used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging and insulation and as aerosol propellants. These long-lived chemicals compounds of CFCs are never destroyed in the atmosphere above the earth surface. In the case of the stratosphere, these long-lived chemicals compounds of CFCs are degraded so that free chlorine atoms are discharged. This kind of action of degrading the CFCs is normally triggered by the ultraviolet radiations from the sun.
However, the CIO is then produced due to the reaction of the discharged chlorine atoms together with the O3. This reaction goes on for quite sometime thus leading to the molecules drifting up into the stratosphere. Here, they participate in the depletion of the ozone. When the ozone has been depleted, that process leads to the cooling of the stratosphere even though the effect on the surface temperature is normally small thus leading some signs in doubt.
Ever since the discovery of the ozone depletion, it has been known to get worse as the days goes by. Reasons for it getting worse is that most of the gases and vapors that cause this problem of the ozone depletion are known to last for a very long period that is 10 to 15 years for it to homogenize throughout the atmosphere even though they can last up to 100 years for the CFCs and 300 years for the halogens to at least release a half of them. Nevertheless, ever since its discovery, the substance known as trichloroethane that has been used to act as a solvent is believed to last for only 12 years.
One thing to note is that the ozone hole cannot be taken literally as a “Hole” rather an important thinning of the ozone levels. Ever since its discovery, it is believed that the year 2003 was the worst year for the hole that has been caused by the ozone depletion while 2001 coming closely second as compared to 2003. in the year 2002, similar event also occurred although two holes were formed during that period while 2004, the hole was similar to that of 2003 even though it was very slightly less as compared with that one of 2003 but was covering a larger area. It is believed that, with the application of the Montreal Protocol, this problem will become worse for quite sometime before getting better or being controlled by the protocol. The emissions of those many compounds should be zero rated and the stratospheric halogen burden should reach at the peak. As it falls, the ozone is also estimated to be a better of at is around 2040 to 2050. It is expected to go back to normal by the end of this century as long the protocol is followed accordingly.
How is this going to happen? In the recent WMO assessment of the stratospheric ozone, it is believed that a number of 2D atmospheric models were used to observe the ozone recovery. These models calculated the global ozone levels to be out at the end of this century. The end result was that this will occur after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo of which the ozone level in all the models gradually increased even though it occurred in a very slow pace which is also compared with the years provided above. The slow pace is also compared to the to the long residence time in the stratosphere of the ozone depleting halogens species.
Even though this period is estimated, in the mean time, changes that occur in the air pollutants such as Ozone (O3), nitrogen oxide (NOx), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), formaldehyde (HCHO) and nitric acid (HNO3) that are found in the lower atmosphere which is the troposphere have been known to bring about some complication in the human health and the environment. The stratosphere ozone depletion is known to cause some changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere especially when there is an increased penetration of the UV radiations to the atmosphere. The UV radiation then induces some changes in the DNA of the human being which brings about skin cancer and changes in melanin pigmentation. Apart from the skin cancer and melanin pigmentation which is normally causes by the changes of the DNA as a result of the UV radiations.
Other human health interference because of the ozone depletion is the immune system suppression. Here, there are some consequences in the pathogenesis of the infectious diseases, for the effectiveness of the vaccination, for tumor rejection and for the autoimmune disease of its impacts can be considered. Furthermore, the main causes that leads to the immune suppression and not that very much known. However, it is clear that this problem begins with the molecules in the skin which takes in some UV radiations and changes the structure. The structure changing ends up causing other diseases such as the chicken-pox of which leads to the virus remaining very deep in the nervous tissue. Other causes of this UV exposure are it affects the interaction of the HIV with the host. This is evident after the experiment that was performed on the HIV positive patients who were given a suberythemal dose of UV-B radiation of which their skin was thoroughly examined for the activation of the HIV. The results were positive due to the production of the gene-activating factors which were caused by the host (Callan, & Janet, 2007).
Another health is the eye damage which brings about the cataracts whereby it leads to the deterioration of the lens through the means of oxidation. This can majorly lead to blindness. It is known that cataracts can be treated through surgery but in the case where the surgery is not successful, then it means that the person might end up being permanently blind with some grave social and economic consequences. This can be proved through the year 1998 whereby, an estimated number of 135 million people were visually impaired and 45 million people ended up being blind world wide with cataracts being mentioned as the leading cause.
Plants are also affected by this ozone depletion whereby crops such as the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem are the major target. This leads to the reduction of the crop yield and its quality. It also increases the incidents of severity and infection diseases especially in the tropical regions and sub tropical also.
The surrounding in terms of the quality of the air is also affected. This normally happens when the air is split into O3 thus leading to the production of the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) of which indirectly affects the human health, terrestrial plants and the outdoor materials.
Sea food production especially the early development stages of the fish, crab, amphibians and other animals are also affected by this ozone depletion. Another effect which has been caused by this ozone depletion is the ozone depletion extending over the entire Antarctic which ended up forming a hole in the ozone layer which was later known as the ozone hole.
Apart from the sea food production, another way the plants are being affected is through the reduction of growth and small leaves. The photosynthetic rate falls down thus leading to the poor seeds and foods productions.
Changes in chemical composition of these plants also affect the food production quality. Aquatic ecosystem affects the Zooplanktons thus slowing down the rate of photosynthesis in phytoplankton. It has to be noted that the ozone depletion also changes the earth’s temperature which to some extend leads to warming or cooling of the atmosphere.
How can this be controlled? Of recent, it has been discovered that the global release of the CFCs isn’t going to end soon instead it will continue to be released especially by most industries of which many of them are being developed of late. To avoid this kind of release, some few steps need to be taken so as to control such emissions or even to curtail the usage. Such steps need the attention through assessment of the international dimensions of the problem which should establish the context for the national assessment and control measures. This is because the CFC-ozone problems affect the whole world when it comes to the causes especially the CFC emissions, its consequences when it comes to the health and the environment. This is why there is the need for the involvement of all the nations in curbing this emission problem for the better future.
Another option should be to come up with the technological ways that should be used to curb such a problem now and in the near future so as to reduce the CFCs emissions. Some of the alternatives such as the substitution of the other chemicals for the CFCs, containment, recovery, recycling of the CFCs, coming up with the new technologies which do not need the CFCs and restrictions of those materials or products that are known to be using the CFCs should be explored. Even though these technological suggestions are the major challenges to be implemented, it is possible to come up with some significant emission sources of which there are potential promising technological ways that are meant to reduce or eliminate this kind of problem.
The government involvement and taking the immediate action is a very important aspect especially those actions that are meant to induce the necessarily technological measures and their socioeconomic consequences. By this we mean the government should come up with the control options of the emission of the CFCs. Such control options should be the banning of the specific applications that tend to use the CFCs, coming up with some standards that give permission to some specific applications either in the form of the specific restrictions or emissions or even application of the best available technological measures, quotas or ceilings on the CFC production, taxing the production or the use of CFCs by increasing the cost so as to minimize the demand of those products, deposit refund system in order to create user incentives to recycle, subsidies to promote the creation of recycling and recovering activities and finally educating and labeling so as to male the public aware of the effects of such emissions. Finally the constraints on the things imposed by the technical, economic, social and international considerations are influenced by the current uncertainty in our knowledge.
In conclusion, having known the behavior of the stratospheric ozone layer for the past century and the changes to be implemented afterwards, it is quite clear that, if the problem is not taken very seriously, it might end up affecting the whole world. No one is likely to be spared because this problem affects both the human being, the animals in the land and the sea and also the crops and in general the environment. Measures that have been mentioned should be enacted with an immediate effect to curb the problem.
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