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The past century has seen scientist discover that the planet has been warming up. Studies carried out indicate that the temperature of the earth from the beginning of the twenty- first century has risen by a degree Fahrenheit. This might appear a slight increase in temperatures but specialists in this field of study argue that it might have devastating effects not only on human life but also the entire earth biological diversities (Lubin & Jensen, 1995). A number of studies to determine the cause and effects of the ozone layer depletion have been conducted by guru researchers. Furthermore, this paper will start by addressing the role ozone layer plays as well as the responses people should have in order to minimize the effects of the ozone hole.
Role of Ozone Layer
The ozone layer, found in two regions of the Earth's atmosphere, plays pivotal roles to earth's life. Stratosphere is a region of the atmosphere found slightly above the earth's surface. On the other hand, the other region of the ozone is referred to as the stratosphere. The two layers show how ozone layer distributes in the atmosphere. Although stratosphere and troposphere constitute chemically identical oxygen atoms, they play different roles in the atmosphere and their depletion carry different effects humans and other living things. The upper ozone or sometimes referred to as stratospheric ozone or good ozone absorbs the ultraviolet light which damages biological life by allowing a small amount to reach the surface of the earth. The ozone absorbs ultraviolet radiation thus creating a source of heat which forms the stratosphere. In this regard, ozone, therefore, plays a crucial role in controlling the temperature structure of the Earth's atmosphere. Absence or depletion of the ozone layer affects the filtering capacity of the ozone layer thus, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to penetrate the atmosphere and reach the earth surface. It is common knowledge that this radiation carries harmful effects on animals and plants. Several studies indicate that bad ozone strongly react with other molecules and hence toxic to living systems. The same studies have further documented the harmful effects of ozone on human health, crop production and forest growth.
Causes of Ozone layer destruction
There are several factors that cause the destruction of the ozone layer. These factors include; first, water vapor is a strong destroyer of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is affected negatively by the presence of water vapor in that it suppresses the formation of the ozone layer by providing a decay path. Large quantities of anomalous stuff associated with ozone hole such as clouds lead to suppression of ozone by water vapor. Water vapor, carried by high- altitude craft also reduces the oxygen that makes ozone.
Secondly, the depletion of the available oxygen is another cause of ozone destruction. This is due to the fact that ozone is formed from oxygen and that actions or processes that cut down the viable plant life that make oxygen lead to depletion of the ozone. Therefore, Lack of enough oxygen leads to the decay of the unstable ozone, which in turn attack the molecules not protected by fluorine, when the ultraviolet rays from the sun hit. It is also pertinent to note that the ozone layer depends on the UV-C light from the sun to make fresh ozone each day (Blaustein et al., 1994). Contaminants, therefore, reduce the equilibrium ozone concentration, allowing harmful ultraviolet rays to penetrate earth surface and damage sources of food.
Thirdly, the accumulation of gases more so carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which results from fossil- fuel emission, contributes a great deal to the depletion of the ozone layer. Human beings involve in activities that emit considerable amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For example, vehicular activities, airplane activities, and coal plants release gases to the atmosphere increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide. This increased burning of carbon in turn destroys the very fundamental storage of carbon. Other human activities that result in gas emission, which deplete the ozone layer, are methane produced from agriculture and landfills, oxide from fertilizers and other industrial processes, and the greenhouse gases (Stix, 1989). The later include the ability to trap more heat than carbon dioxide thus making the sun warming rays leave the earth and the greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere. These gases lead to an increase in earth's temperatures leading to changes in patterns of the weather, and also changes in the climate. In a nutshell, the gases carry along effects that are harmful to the ozone layer and failure to reduce human activities that lead to emission of these gases, then ozone will continue to deplete.
Human beings are supposed to be the custodians of the environment but, unfortunately, they are the ones behind its destruction. They ought to ensure that the environment is preserved for the survival of the ecosystem. This is, however, not the case because human activities in the recent past have and continue to destroy the environment. The need to meet economical demands, for instance, has driven human beings to engage in deforestation which increase the severity of ozone destruction. This act of converting forests into towns and farmlands leads to release of carbon dioxide into the air. Living plants act as storage of such carbon dioxide and on their death and decay, the same carbon dioxide is released back into the air. Clearing grasslands and forests for timber make a large amount of atmosphere and increases greenhouse gas amount in the atmosphere. Moreover, the destructions of rain forests that form a cooling band along the equator have led to massive climatic changes in the world today. The carbon emissions that result from deforestation seem to have more damage to the ozone layer than the one caused by vehicular activities and factories. It is, therefore, paramount to conserve the environment.
Last but not least, ultra violet rays are damaging the ozone layer from the outside. This happens because we are busy destroying the ozone that protects us from harmful rays from the inside with carbon dioxide and other ozone depleting substance that we release into the air.
Effects of Ozone depletion
There is a widespread public and scientific concern and interest about the loss of ozone in the atmosphere. This is informed by the devastating effects of a depleted ozone when it comes into contact with life forms. In short, what I mean is that destruction of the ozone carries with it an ugly destructive side.
Problems of ozone depletion have substantial effects on bio diversity in that it's exposed to ultraviolet rays that reach the earth. The ultraviolet light carries harmful health consequences on human beings and animals. UV-B, for instance, reaches the surface of the earth due to ozone depletion and may cause cancer of the skin. Surveys indicate that, by the year 2075, around sixty million Americans will succumb to skin cancer because of depletion of the ozone layer.
In addition to skin cancer, depletion of the ozone also causes other diseases such as malaria and other infectious diseases. Cases of cataracts, for instance, will in crease as a result of ozone depletion. Depletion of the ozone also leads to climatic changes, change in weather conditions, and other ecosystem changes which affect the quality of air, food, and water increasing the vulnerability of a person to health risks. Research indicates that such changes alter the distribution of some infectious diseases and may cause death due to heat waves. Then health status of many people in the world may be affected by diseases and injury caused by extreme weather conditions. Harmful gases released to the air may also cause cardio respiratory diseases, diarrhea diseases, malnutrition, and increase in death.
Secondly, the environment in general will be negatively affected by the depletion of the ozone layer. This is because the life cycle of plants and animals leading to disruption of the food chain. Animals will be severely affected by this situation. Aquatic life will also be affected since the oceans will be hit hard, as well (Zurer, 1998). The microscopic organism may not be able to survive. Other animals, which depend on, such organism in the food chain, will certainly die out. Furthermore, other ecosystems, for example, deserts and forest will also be harmed.
The depletion of the ozone layer will have harmful effects on the production and supply of food. Agricultural sector all over the globe will be hampered due to the emission of gases that do not sustain growth. Rising temperatures and increased frequency of events also affect growth. The spread of diseases and pests caused by uncontrolled environment hampers productivity in agriculture. High latitude areas will register decreased productivity, whereas low latitudes areas register low- crop yields. The climatic changes, as seen above, affect the population in negative ways.
The depletion of the ozone layer will also affect the earth's climate due to the changing wind patterns, throughout the world. This in itself has devastating effects on the life of plants and animals on earth. Houghton, Ding, & Giggs (2001) assert that in overall, climate change have negative effects on water resources and fresh water systems. They further argue that arid and semi arid areas are much exposed to climate change thus the effects on water system in such areas are worse.
Depletion of the ozone layer, which leads to, climatic changes, will lead to ethnic conflicts. These conflicts arise due to competition for limited natural resources rendered scarce by the climactic changes. Africa as per now fight over the control of vast natural resources sleeping on African lands, future conflicts will be based upon the fight over scarce resources. Arctic Climate Impact Science (April 2008) argue that climatic changes will bring about draught, shortage in water, and coastal flooding, which will affect, local as well as regional populace. It might also lead to internal relocations and displacements and might impose pressures to migrate. The climatic change will cause uneven conflicts throughout the globe. In some places, climatic changes will produce benefits whereas, in other instances, it incurs costs. It is, therefore, essential to note that different places and sectors will be impacted in different ways by changes in climate.
Actions to protect the ozone layer
Depletion of the ozone layer is a thorny issue not only to environmentalists but to the world at large because of the devastating affects it has on the climate. This calls for the formulation of approaches to cut down the effects of the ozone layer depletion. This can be done by reducing the activities that lead to this problem.
First and foremost, educating the general populace by creating awareness on the detrimental effects their activities have on the climate is essential. This is informed by the fact that climatic changes leading to destruction of the ozone layer are caused by human activities.
Other approaches have been also advanced to reduce the destruction of the ozone. For example, an international agreement, which came to, be termed as the Montreal protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer as instituted by a number of governments to discontinue the emission of harmful gases to the environment (Jones & Shanklin, 1985). Since then, the agreement has registered significant improvements because most industries resorted to developing substitutes that are friendly to the ozone (Manfred, 1993). If all countries are going to observe and adhere to this international agreement, then the ozone layer is expected to recover in the coming fifty years or even less.
In conclusion, as we have seen above, ozone layer plays critical roles in maintaining the temperature of planet earth. The paper has looked at the causes of the ozone layer destruction and some of the effects it carries. Ozone layer is by a large percentage destroyed by the greenhouse effect gases and human activity, a dangerous phenomenon which is on the rise impacting the globe negatively. This destruction is of a serious magnitude, and it not only calls for the formulation of policies but also implementation of these policies to curb this global menace. It also needs a quick intervention failure to which the planet will sink into devastating climate mess hard to rectify in the future. In a nutshell, this paper has given an overview of the ozone layer, a brief description of the causes of ozone depletion, and the effects it has on the environment. It concludes with giving recommendations on how to curb further destruction of the ozone layer by offering insights of how its initial status can be regained. However, room for further research to improve on the findings of the paper ought to be carried out in order to maintain an environment free from climatic challenges.