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Introduction

Ozone depletion is a critical environmental concern with far-reaching implications for Earth's atmosphere. Human activities have led to the depletion of the ozone layer, crucial for protecting life from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Ozone holes, notably over Antarctica, have emerged, prompting global concerns. A concise understanding of the causes, consequences, and international efforts to address ozone depletion is essential, recognizing its interconnectedness with broader environmental challenges.

Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 | Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

Ozone Depletion

  • It is found in two different layers of the atmosphere.
  • Ozone in the troposphere is ''bad'' because it dirties the air and helps to form smog, which is not good to breathe.
  • Ozone in the stratosphere is "good" because it protects life on Earth by absorbing some of the sun's harmful Ultra Violet (UV) rays decrease in the concentration of ozone in a particular region of the atmosphere of ozone hole 
  • The best example of such an ozone hole is the atmosphere over the Antarctic which has only about 50 percent of the ozone that originally occurred there.

Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 | Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

Question for Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1
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What is the role of ozone in the troposphere?
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Sources

(i) Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs):

  • CFCs molecules are made up of chlorine, fluorine and carbon.
  • They are used as refrigerants (66%): Propellants in aerosol sprays, foaming agents in plastic manufacturing (30%), fire extinguishing agents, solvents for cleaning electronic and metallic components, for freezing foods etc 
  • CFCs has a wide and varied application due to its properties like non- corrosiveness, noninflammability, low toxicity and chemical stability, etc. the residence time of CFCs in the atmosphere estimated to be between 40 and 150 years

 The chemical reaction

  • CFCs + UV radiation = freeing chlorine atoms. A free chlorine atom + ozone molecule to = chlorine monoxide (ClO). chlorine monoxide + atom of oxygen. = (O2) and reformation of the free chlorine atom (Cl).
  • The element that destroys O3 (ie. chlorine ) is being reformed at the end of cycle.
  • A single chlorine atom destroy thousands of ozone molecules before encountering reactive nitrogen or hydrogen compounds that eventually return chlorine to its reservoirs.

(ii) Nitrogen Oxides:

  • The chemical reaction- Nitric oxide (NO) catalytically destroys ozone.
  • Nitric oxide + ozone - Nitrogen dioxide + O2
  • Nitrogen dioxide + monoxide = Nitric oxide + O2

Other Substances

Bromine

  • Containing compounds called halons and HBFCs, i.e. hydrobromo fluorocarbons [both used in fire extinguishers and methyl bromide (a widely used pesticide)].
  • Each bromine atom destroys hundred times of more ozone molecules than what a chlorine atom does.

Sulphuric acid particles
These particles free chlorine from molecular reservoirs, and convert reactive nitrogen into inert forms thus preventing, the formation of chlorine reservoirs.

Question for Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1
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What is the main cause of ozone depletion in the atmosphere?
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Role of polar stratospheric clouds in ozone depletion

  • The ice particles of the cloud provided substrates for chemical reactions which freed chlorine from its reservoirs.
  • The reaction between HCl and ClNO2 is very slow, but this reaction occurs at a faster rate in the presence of a suitable substrate which is provided by the stratospheric clouds at the poles.
  • The PSCs not only activate chlorine, but they also absorb reactive nitrogen.

Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 | Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

  • If nitrogen, oxides were present they would combine with chlorine monoxide to form a reservoir of chlorine nitrate, (ClNO2). 
  • Every spring, a hole as big as the USA develops in the ozone layer over Antarctica, in the South pole 
  • A smaller hole develops each year over the Arctic, at the North Pole.

Why is the ozone hole predominant at the Antarctic?

Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 | Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

  • The Antarctic stratosphere is much colder. The low temperature enables the formation of Polar stratospheric Clouds (PSCs), below 20 km
  • The vortex is a ring of rapidly circulating air that confines the ozone depletion in the Antarctic region. The longevity of the Antarctic vortex is another factor, enhancing favourable conditions for the depletion of ozone. 
  • The vortex remains, in fact, throughout the polar winter, well into midspring Whereas- the vortex in the Arctic disintegrates by the time the polar spring (March-April) arrives
  • The ozone measurement instruments and techniques are varied, Some of them are the Dobson spectrophotometer and the filter ozonometer called M83, and total ozone mapping pectrometer (TOMS) in the Nimbus-7 satellite
  • The Umheher technique- The most common measure of total ozone abundance is the Dobson unit (named after the pioneering atmospheric physical Gordon Dobson) which is the thickness of the ozone column ( compressed at Standard Temperature and Pressure (STP)) in milli-centimeters.

Arctic Ozone Depletion

Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 | Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

The noticeable trend of ozone depletion extends to the Arctic region, with a significant event occurring in March 1996 when the Arctic Ozone Depletion, the most extensive in the northern hemisphere, affected Britain. Scientists attribute this occurrence to a historic cooling of the upper atmosphere in the northern latitudes. Since the winter of 1992, ozone depletion over the northern hemisphere has been consistently on the rise. The accumulation of ozone-depleting chemicals, coupled with the increasing cold temperatures in the Arctic stratosphere, contributes to the formation of Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs), further exacerbating the depletion issue.

Environmental Effects of Ozone

  • Effects of human and animal health
  • Effects on terrestrial plants
  • Effects on aquatic ecosystems
  • Effects on bio-geochemical cycles
  • Effects on air quality
  • Effects on materials

 The Ozone Depleting Substances Rules


  • In July 2000, The Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 were introduced under the Environment (Protection) Act. These rules, amended in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005, establish deadlines for phasing out various Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) while regulating their production, trade, import, and export, as well as products containing ODS.

  • Prohibitions and Deadlines: The rules prohibit the use of CFCs in most products after January 1, 2003, except for metered dose inhalers and medical purposes. Halons' use is restricted after January 1, 2001, except for essential purposes. Other ODSs, like carbon tetrachloride and methylchloroform, and CFC for metered dose inhalers, can be used until January 1, 2010. Methyl bromide use has been allowed until January 1, 2015, and HCFCs, interim substitutes for CFCs, are permitted until January 1, 2040.

Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019

  • Published under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019, state that the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) prohibits the issuance of import licenses for HCFC-141b from January 1, 2020.

  • Phasing Out HCFC-141b: India successfully phased out Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-141b, used by foam-producing businesses, by January 1, 2020, aligning with the nation's commitment to move away from ODSs in favor of environmentally friendly and energy-efficient technologies.

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FAQs on Shankar IAS Summary: Ozone Depletion- 1 - Famous Books for UPSC Exam (Summary & Tests)

1. What are ozone depleting substances?
Ans. Ozone depleting substances (ODS) are chemicals that contain chlorine, bromine, or fluorine and are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer in the Earth's stratosphere.
2. How does ozone depletion occur?
Ans. Ozone depletion occurs when ODS are released into the atmosphere and react with ozone molecules. This reaction breaks down the ozone molecules, leading to a decrease in the ozone layer.
3. What are the impacts of ozone depletion?
Ans. Ozone depletion can lead to increased levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface. This can have harmful effects on human health, such as increased risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and weakened immune system. It can also affect ecosystems, including damage to marine life and reduction in crop yields.
4. How are ozone depleting substances regulated?
Ans. The Ozone Depleting Substances Rules are regulations that aim to control the production, import, export, and use of ozone depleting substances. These rules include measures such as phasing out the production and use of ODS, promoting the use of alternatives, and implementing proper disposal methods.
5. What is being done to address ozone depletion?
Ans. The international community has taken significant steps to address ozone depletion, including the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This protocol has led to the phase-out of major ODS and has been successful in reducing the depletion of the ozone layer. Ongoing efforts focus on continued monitoring, research, and implementation of sustainable alternatives to ODS.
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