Aside from Labor Day in the U.S., today is the first International Day of Clear Blue Skies, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly to bring awareness to the largest environmental risk to public health globally: air pollution.
Over 90% of our world is exposed to polluted air, which causes an estimated seven million premature deaths every year (more than cigarette smoking) and leaves millions more with chronic health problems like asthma and cognitive decline.
Fortunately, the world has a precedent for successful action: Over 30 years ago this month, the UN-sponsored Montreal Protocol saw literally every country commit to working together to eliminate CFCs, which were causing severe depletion of the ozone layer; it remains one of the few treaties with universal agreement. It took only 14 years between the discovery of the problem and the world committing to resolve it—and we’ve already seen the results.
A few years ago, it was confirmed that the ozone layer is slowly recovering, and most projections show it fully healing within the next four decades. In an era of rising conflict and poor global leadership, this unlikely and little known success story of international cooperation is a glimmer of hope.