HFCs were developed to phase out ozone-depleting gases, in response to the Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 1989. But as heat-trapping greenhouse gases, they can be hundreds or thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2). The chemicals are used in refrigerators and air-conditioners, and their use is poised to grow in the decades ahead.
After analysing the latest industry trends, a research team led by Guus Velders at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency computer-modelled HFC production to 2050. The results suggest that HFC emissions could be the equivalent of 5.5 billion to 8.8 billion tonnes of CO2 annually by 2010. That is roughly 19% of projected CO2 emissions if greenhouse gases continue to rise unchecked.
The study makes no policy recommendations, but still could be a factor in the political debate on regulating the chemicals. Montreal Protocol delegates plan to discuss the issue in Geneva next month. Currently, HFCs are covered by the Kyoto Protocol.
A new generation of refrigerants, said to negatively affect neither the ozone nor the climate, is under development.
See full story