16 Jan 2015 Press release Disasters & conflicts

Montreal Protocol Averts Threat of Large Increases in Skin Cancers

Nairobi, 16 January 2015 - The threat of large increases in skin cancers has been avoided due to the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in controlling ozone depletion, according to the newly published "Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion and its Interactions with Climate Change: 2014 Assessment" report, produced by the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (EEAP) of the Montreal Protocol, following its latest quadrennial assessment.

The report explains that, according to some estimates, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer will be prevented each year by 2030, thanks to the successful implementation of the Montreal Protocol and its amendments.

The EEAP assessment report, written by over 40 scientists from across the world, provides key findings on the environment and health since the last full assessment conducted by the EEAP in 2010. The report highlights the changes in ultraviolet (UV) radiation that have occurred as a result of ozone depletion and other environmental changes.

The ozone layer is critical to life on the planet. The interactions between ozone-depleting substances, stratospheric ozone (the ozone layer), ground-level ozone, climate change, and UV radiation from the sun are very important to all organisms on earth, including humans. UV radiation has direct effects on human health and also affects everyone indirectly through effects on crops, livestock, air pollution, and the natural environment.

The report details the various effects of UV radiation on human health (including skin cancers and cataracts), ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, air quality and materials. It also examines how ozone depletion may interact with climate change, both through changes in UV radiation and its environmental effects.

The report notes that without the Montreal Protocol, runaway ozone depletion would have led to large increases in UV radiation around the world, with major consequences for the risk of skin cancer. The success of the Protocol in controlling ozone depletion has confined increases in UV radiation to the extreme south of the southern Hemisphere, and a few short-term episodes over the Arctic.

The report also observes that with continued effective implementation of the Montreal Protocol, future changes in UV radiation outside the polar regions will likely be dominated by changes in factors other than ozone, including changes in climate and air pollution.

The report adds that levels of UV radiation in the polar regions will be determined by the recovery of stratospheric ozone and by changes in clouds and reflectivity of the Earth's surface.

Notes to Editors

The EEAP assessment is one of the periodic assessments by the three Assessment Panels of the Montreal Protocol - EEAP, Technology and Economic Assessment Panel and Scientific Assessment Panel. The assessments enable the Parties to the Montreal Protocol to take informed decisions on ozone protection activities and address challenges under the Protocol.

The Co-Chairs of the EEAP assessment are: Prof. Janet F. Bornman, Curtin University, Australia; Prof. Min Shao, Peking University, China; and Prof. Nigel Paul, Lancaster University, UK. The Secretary is Prof. Keith Solomon, University of Guelph, Canada.

The "Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion and its Interactions with Climate Change: 2014 Assessment" report can be downloaded here

The 2014 assessment by the EEAP has also been published in the current issue of the Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences journal to inform the scientific community how their data, modeling and interpretations are playing a role in dissemination of information to the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, other policymakers and scientists. The journal can be accessed here

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.