Rising Use of Refrigerants Poses Severe Global Warming Threat

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The explosive growth of modern refrigerants, originally developed to replace ozone-destroying chemicals, could become a significant cause of global warming if they are not soon replaced by a new class of coolants, according to Dutch and U.S. researchers.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists said that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – now used in most air conditioning in cars and buildings – are a potent greenhouse gas whose heat-trapping effects currently equal less than one percent of all CO2 emissions worldwide. But booming economic growth in the developing world and the rapid spread of air conditioning mean that by 2050 HFCs could cause at least 25 percent of human-induced global warming, the study said.

HFCs came into widespread use when they replaced ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons two decades ago. The good news is that industry is now developing a new class of more benign refrigerants, and researchers and policy makers are calling on the global community to phase out HFCs, much as chlorofluorocarbons were eliminated under the 1989 Montreal Protocol.

This article originally appeared on Yale Environment 360 at http://e360.yale.edu

[photo credit: niallkennedy]

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