A recently launched video game called Reset Earth envisions a terrifying disease that has swept the planet, creating confusion, chaos and loss of life. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? But on this occasion, the disease is called the Grow, its cause is the collapse of the ozone layer, and the year is not 2021 but 2084.

Three teenage characters – Knox, Sagan and Terran – have to race to save the planet. Their time-travelling mission takes them back to the 1980s where they must ensure the world pulls together to address the ozone crisis.

The game has been released by the United Nations, which wants to ensure that younger generations understand the importance of the global adoption of a treaty to protect the ozone layer.

A watershed treaty

Agreed in 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer became the first United Nations treaty to be ratified by every country when it was signed by all 198 UN members. It aims to protect the environment and prevent further damage to earth’s protective ozone layer by phasing out a number of chemical substances. These include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which among other things were widely used in fridges and freezers.

These gases were found to be highly damaging to the atmosphere, causing substantial depletion of the ozone layer. A hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic was discovered in the 1980s.

Ozone, which has the chemical symbol O3 – it is a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms. But unlike oxygen, ozone can be harmful if inhaled. Almost all the ozone in the air is found in the stratosphere, which is between 10km and 50km above the earth’s surface. Although it makes up a tiny proportion of the atmosphere, ozone acts as a protective barrier against the sun’s powerful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

According to NASA: “Without ozone, the Sun’s intense UV radiation would sterilize the Earth’s surface.”

A game with a serious point

The Reset Earth game is one part of a series of activities aimed at making the climate an interesting and engaging topic for younger audiences over the next 12 months.

Meg Seki, Acting Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat, said: “The protection of the ozone layer cannot be considered a done deal. It must be a continuous effort by us and by future generations. If our children learn about the grim consequences of a ruined ozone layer, they will act to keep it only as part of a fantasy game.”

The game is accompanied by a short, animated movie, set in a dystopian future. The three protagonists join forces to thwart the Grow, traveling back through time to find its origins – and change history.

Since the 1987 ban on ozone-depleting substances (ODS), the volume of damaging chemicals in the atmosphere has been slowly decreasing. But because of the long life of these ODS, it is not until after 2050 that levels will fall to values seen before the ozone hole was discovered.

Senior Writer, Formative Content

This article was first published in the World Economic Forum.

Also read: Ozone hole shrinks to smallest on record but NASA says it doesn’t mean layer is recovering


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