March 05, 2007
CFC Phaseout More Powerful Than Kyoto Accord

The Kyoto deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions has done far less to reduce global warming than the phaseout of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs).

Global warming would be much worse if the world had not put a halt to the destruction of the ozone hole above Antarctica, say researchers.

They say the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which restricts the use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals, will cut warming by five or six times more than the Kyoto Protocol.

The CFCs have made the ozone hole over the Antarctic much larger. Rapid economic growth in India and other Asian countries has slowed the decline in CFC emissions

Atmospheric scientist Guus Velders in the Netherlands

For example, says atmospheric scientist Guus Velders of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in Bilthoven, the class of compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) traps 5000 to 14,000 times more heat, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide, and 400 times more heat than methane.

The big chemical company Dupont wants a faster phaseout of HCFCs and says they are ready with replacement compounds.

DuPont advocates an accelerated phaseout of HCFCs, actions to minimize emissions of refrigerants and adoption of low global warming potential (GWP) alternatives, where possible. Last year, the company announced the identification of a low GWP refrigerant for auto air conditioning applications and is currently working on leveraging this low GWP technology to other refrigerant applications.

This reminds me of a recent story on how rapid economic growth in India, China, and other Asian countries is delaying the recovery of the ozone layer by a quarter of a century.

Scientists mostly blame chlorofluorocarbons, a chemical used in an early form of refrigerant that they now realize was released into the atmosphere in larger quantities than forecast. As a result, the international agencies now say that injury to the Earth's ozone layer could take a quarter of a century longer to heal than previously expected.

The fastest-growing offending gas that scientists say can be better managed is HCFC-22. Nearly 200 diplomats will gather in September in Montreal to determine how to speed up the timetable for the elimination of certain gases that threaten the ozone layer, in particular how to manage HCFC-22. A deadline for proposals is March 15.

The cheapest way to reduce global warming is to accelerate the phaseout of CFCs and HCFCs. The Bush Administration is proposing a more accelerated phaseout of HCFCs. Sounds like a good idea.

More generally: Rapid Asian economic growth means that Western efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are going to get swamped by larger Asian increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. We need to accelerate the development of solar, nuclear, and other non-fossil fuels energy technologies to lower their costs below the costs of fossil fuels. The Asians will shift toward non-fossil fuel energy sources if these sources are cheaper. Otherwise, expect more CO2 emissions.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 March 05 11:59 PM  Climate Trends

cancer_man said at March 6, 2007 11:41 PM:

Asia will increase emissions at a faster rate but sooner than many think, start to reduce emissions significantly in with far cleaner cars and factories in 10-15 years. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that we can do much to speed up technological innovation. Could we have produced cheap Pentium III chips in the 80s if we "had the will?" Highly doubtful. It is the same with solar, etc. If you look at the 5% year decrease in solar cost over the past 35 years, you couldn't tell where funding increased or decreased. It just kept dropping.

At some point people will wake up from two myths:

1) global warming is a serious long term problem.
2) CO2 emissions can be cut much faster if we just invest more or subsidize more

rsilvetz said at March 7, 2007 7:27 AM:

Sure you can speed up technical innovation. Get out of the way of it. In the US we have a $2-$3 trillion dollar boondoggle of a regulatory environment. That's $2 trillion that goes off into the ether. Stop requiring absurd double-blind placebo trials, use the gene arrays with targeted trials and long-term follow-ups. (Another example of the deadly precaustionary principle.) Stop taxing savings and investment. Stop interfering with the right to contract. Roll back DMCA. Roll back patent/IP rights back to physical devices only. Etc Etc Etc

cancer_man said at March 7, 2007 7:39 AM:

Not really. We have a $13 trillion economy, but what does a $2- $3 trillion regulatory environment mean?
There was a lot of deregulation in the 80s and 90s yet the technological curves didn't go off their 70s path. Solar is one example. It just kept dropping around 5% a year. CPU speed is the same. Kept doubling at pretty regular intervals. Still is.

You also need some regulation - it doesn't all go off into the ether.

rsilvetz said at March 8, 2007 12:21 PM:

No you don't need regulation. You need an absolute minimum of law, to make the market regular -- which is what the Founding Fathers intended. There was never an intent to saddle the world with regulatory agencies. If they were alive today, there would be no IRS, DEA, FDA or BATF.

Tom said at March 14, 2007 1:29 PM:

"Could we have produced cheap Pentium III chips in the 80s if we "had the will?" Highly doubtful."

I guess that depends how you look at it. If we dumped 5x as much into R&D starting back in the 60s, we probably could have.

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