News / Science & Technology

Scientists Discover Super Greenhouse Gas

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kansas.FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kansas.
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FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kansas.
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kansas.

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Scientists say they have discovered a man-made greenhouse gas 7,100 times as strong as carbon dioxide. More bad news: It has a lifetime of hundreds of years.

Researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada say the chemical – perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) – is the most radiatively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate.

According to Angela Hong, who worked on the project, "radiative efficiency" describes how well a molecule can trap outgoing heat radiation from Earth. This metric indicates the potential for a molecule to impact climate.

“As it turns out, PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of all molecules in the atmosphere to date,” she said in an email.

PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents.

Researchers say there are no known processes that would destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere, meaning it could have a lifetime of hundreds of years.

Carbon dioxide is used as the baseline for comparison since it is the most important greenhouse gas responsible for human-induced climate change.

“Calculated over a 100-year timeframe, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 molecules of CO2,” said Hong.

The results of the study appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters on November 27, 2013.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Pete Finnegan
December 11, 2013 8:44 PM
Yeah, but -- how much of it is there in the atmosphere? Wouldn't it be illegal to emit it into the atmosphere? The article doesn't answer important questions. More fear-mongering with incomplete information.
In Response

by: Pete Finnegan
December 17, 2013 10:11 AM
In reply to Todd St. Pierre: Whether the information is left incomplete due to a lack of intellectual rigor or due to laziness, the effect is the same. The article does not hesitate to make note of this chemical's "bad news" potential of remaining for "hundreds of years", and that "radiative efficiency" means how much a molecule can "impact climate". It does note that the chemical is "currently used in thermally and chemically stable liquids", which may be interpreted as saying that there is no danger, just after describing all of those potential dangers. This is another article with an agenda. It is meant to alarm the casual reader. Making excuses for the way it is written is like giving a trophy for participating. Also, and by the way, the photo caption says the stacks are emitting smoke, when it is obvious that it is steam. This is common tactic of the warmist crowd.
In Response

by: Todd St. Pierre from: San Diego CA
December 17, 2013 12:43 AM
Fear mongering? Yes, the article is incomplete, but perhaps a response of "more research needed" would add a more constructive direction, instead of conjuring denialist ignorance.

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