Despite reports indicating that global emissions of HFC-23, a powerful greenhouse gas, were nearly eliminated in 2017, an international team of scientists led by the University of Bristol discovered that its atmospheric levels actually hit new records.
Over the past two decades, scientists have closely watched the atmospheric concentrations of this gas.
HFC-23 is an unwanted byproduct resulting from the production of HFC-22.
Emissions of greenhouse gas HFC-23 have grown at record levels. 12,000 times worse than CO2 & stays in the atmosphere for 270 years – you should be worried.
Tell your politicians: no more empty words – it’s time to act. It’s on YOU! https://t.co/ECx7w0CWRp pic.twitter.com/1GfHXXSwcP
— ClimateFile (@ClimateFile) 21 de enero de 2020
Powerful greenhouse gas
The use of fluorinated gases began back in the 1990s. They are usually used as refrigerants, fire extinguishers, and to make insulating foam. Nowadays, they were revealed to be very potent greenhouse gases.
While HCFCs are indeed being gradually eliminated, their use as a raw material has significantly grown in recent years.
Hydrofluorcarbons are the most common type of fluorinated gases. They are chemical gases used in a variety of sectors as refrigerants. Mostly, they can be found in cooling systems and air conditioners, heat pumps or fire extinguishers, among others.
Hydrofluorcarbon-23 (HCF-23), also known as CHF3, trifluoromethane, and fluoroform, is a potent and lasting greenhouse gas (GHG). According to the GHG Protocol, it has a global warming potential (GWP) of 12,000. In detail, one ton of HFC-23 emissions is equal to 12,000 of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
The expected decline
In 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a U.S. non-profit, warned that China and India were hitting their limit of HFC-23 emissions.
In 2015, India and China announced ambitious plans to reduce HFC-23 emissions in factories. In 2017, they announced these emissions had been nearly completely eliminated.
A year before, in 2016, the parties of the Protocol of Montreal signed the Kigali Agreement, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of HFC emissions. These emissions grew as a result of its use to substitute other ozone depleting substances.
Climate change experts expected global levels of HFC-23 would drop by 90% these two years.
However, according to the report published in Nature Communications, the opposite occurred. The study, led by the University of Bristol, found that atmospheric concentrations of this gas increased at a record rate in 2018.
A new @NatureComms paper finds emissions of potent greenhouse gas HFC-23 are higher than at any point in history. Meanwhile, emissions reported of the same substance are at the lowest in the past 17 years! More on this #climate scandal: https://t.co/FaROSj5gLo
— Environmental Investigation Agency U.S. (@EIAEnvironment) 21 de enero de 2020
This type of finding reinforces the importance of understanding the influence of the efforts to reduce emissions of HFC-23. One fundamental factor that should be considered is the rapid growth in recent HFC-22 production in developing nations.
The ideal practice is to destroy the gas. Instead, it is being released into the atmosphere, a report prepared by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) warned. And the practice could continue, the study indicated, because the economic incentive for companies to destroy this gas via incineration no longer exists.
“Destroying HFC-23 byproduct emissions is one of the most cost-effective climate mitigation opportunities available to countries. … Any venting of HFC-23 is a colossal scandal and morally unacceptable given the climate crisis today,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, EIA Climate Campaign Lead.
For more information, check Energía16