Remember the ozone hole? Or do you know how the ozone hole issue, on which disaster scenarios were written, is today?
Let’s remember. Chemicals used in aerosol cans and refrigeration thinned a thin layer of protective atmospheric gas called ozone and punched a hole. A high dose of radiation from the sun was leaking from this hole. It’s not too far away, we’re talking about the 80’s. At that time, scientists gave sharp warnings about the “ozone hole” that has become a dangerous weak spot on Antarctica and the terrible future it will create. Unless 5 billion people take collective action, the ozone hole would grow larger, even new ones would form, and the rates of cancer, skin diseases and blindness would increase due to radiation, and the plant and animal ecosystem would be exposed to unpredictable damage.
What happened? In 1987 all key countries signed the Montreal Protocol, a binding agreement to phase out ozone-depleting substances, in particular chlorofluorocarbons and halons. Today, emissions of these substances have fallen by more than 90%, their presence in the atmosphere has been halved. The ozone hole is on track to fully recover by 2070. An important achievement for humanity and the planet.
Solving the climate crisis with the ozone hole experience?
So why isn’t humanity using this important experience it has gained so recently to solve the climate crisis? Why don’t states that act on the ozone hole threat and societies that rapidly transform their daily practices not show the same reflex on the climate crisis?
Of course, first of all, the depletion of the ozone layer and the climate crisis are not the same issues. The issue of the climate crisis is much more complex and layered. So it’s not a problem that can be solved with a single-layered package of measures. But there are still important lessons to be learned from the struggle in the past for today.
Policy makers on the issue of the ozone hole listened to the warnings of scientists, and more importantly, they acted quickly and did what was necessary. Today, however, we see that some countries do not take the climate crisis seriously enough to deny it.
In 1997, countries met in Japan to sign the Kyoto Protocol, a similar agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gases in response to the climate crisis. But its effect was weak. Some countries, notably the United States, did not even join the protocol. As a result, greenhouse gases continued to rise globally.
Then, in 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement came to the fore. This time much louder, drastic measures were agreed upon. Decisions that seemed very effective in principle were not implemented strongly in practice. Here is China. It is the country with the largest greenhouse gas emissions in the world due to its use of coal. Global coal consumption peaked in 2021, despite all the so-called measures of Europe’s sustainable countries in this regard. The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led all developed European countries to embrace coal even more. Germany has decided to reuse 21 coal-fired power plants for two years. Coal is transported to Europe by ships. Nuclear is discussed everywhere.
Regarding the ozone hole, countries quickly implemented measures with common protocols. Rich countries also provided funds to developing countries for the gradual implementation of these measures. Today, there is a serious gap in this regard regarding the climate crisis measures.
See the recent Pakistani example. The country faced a major natural disaster. The unprecedented floods left behind more than a thousand dead, tens of thousands of homes destroyed and millions of dollars in economic losses. So, have developed countries adequately funded even this disaster, let alone fund long-term transformation? Of course no! The transformation funding, which was decided by the countries at the last COP26 meeting, does not speak out either!
What about individuals?
In an environment where countries skid heavily with different agendas at the global level, there is a different situation from the ozone hole on the society side. People are concerned about the climate crisis and its impacts, with minimal awareness of the issue but do not know what to do.
This was not the case in the ozone layer. The risk was easily understandable, how it would affect individuals, and the solutions were extremely practical. Risk: The larger the ozone hole, the greater the radiation. How it affects individuals: Cancer and similar diseases skyrocket. Solution: Don’t use deodorant!
Unfortunately, we could not reach this very basic level on the climate crisis. Therefore, people cannot internalize this issue and make the necessary transformation in their daily life practices. It sees the climate crisis as something much bigger than itself and downplays its individual action. Or it activates its defense mechanisms and ignores the issue directly.
However, people’s choices are very important. In this regard, their progress with sustainable choices and decisions will affect the entire mechanism; It has the power to affect even governments and companies.
Communications on duty!
At this point, once again, I think that communication professionals play a critical role for the desired transformation at the individual level. Different platforms should be created through insights, and spaces should be created for transformation for individuals. The subject should be explained clearly and simply. Solutions should also be put forward in practice.
The media also has an important role in this regard. It is extremely critical to systematically and regularly download information about this issue to the society at this level. This will not only increase public interest, awareness and knowledge, but will also turn into a force that will put pressure on policy makers after a while.
We started with the ozone hole, let’s end with it. Experts state that the improvement in the ozone hole prevents global warming from happening even more, thus playing an important role in the fight against the climate crisis. Thanks to ozone hole!