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A visualization of the Antarctic ozone hole from 1991, two years after the Montreal Protocol went into effect. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

A new study finds the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which was negotiated to stop ozone-depleting emissions, also prevented significant climate change.

Why it matters: Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Montreal Protocol "perhaps the single most effective international agreement," and its success in both reversing ozone depletion and slowing warming shows why.

What's happening: In a study published in Nature this week, researchers simulated what would have happened to the world if the Montreal Protocol had never gone into effect.

  • The treaty phased out ozone-depleting chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
  • Previous research has shown the Antarctic ozone hole would have been 40% bigger in the treaty's absence.
  • The new study, though, shows continued use of ozone-depleting chemicals in the absence of Montreal could have led to an additional 2.5 °C of warming by the end of the century.

How it works: Some of that climate change would have been triggered by direct warming caused by CFC and HCFC emissions, which act as a greenhouse gas.

  • But because a damaged ozone layer would let in more harmful UV radiation, plants would have had a reduced ability to store carbon, which would have further contributed to warming.

The big picture: The success of the Montreal Protocol has often been cited as proof the global community can successfully negotiate a solution to a global environmental challenge.

  • But carbon — and the fossil fuels that contain them — is far more central to the global economy than CFCs and HCFCs, which could be replaced with ozone-safer alternatives at a relatively low price.
  • The geopolitical realm is arguably much more complex now than it was in 1987, when large developing countries like India and China — which will be the source of the bulk of current and future carbon emissions — were much smaller and had less of a voice.

The bottom line: The world's governments were unusually far-sighted in negotiating the Montreal Protocol, but climate change won't be as easy.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Montreal Protocol phased out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), not hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Go deeper

China’s Glasgow gambit

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Justin Chin/Bloomberg, Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

GLASGOW, Scotland — China used backroom negotiating to make itself a player, though far from a leader, at the global COP26 climate summit.

Why it matters: It's in the world's best interest for the U.S. and China to manage tensions and cooperate in the future, since the two together account for 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker

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