'Ozone-friendly' chemicals worry experts

Nov. 21, 2011 at 8:24 PM

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A rise in the use of "ozone-friendly" hydrofluorocarbons has raised concerns the potent greenhouse gases could be a problem in the future, a U.N. report says.

The report says that HFCs, many times more potent than CO2 and used in refrigerators and air conditioning, could account for up to 20 percent of emissions and hamper efforts to curb climate change, the BBC reported Monday.

The report by the U.N. Environment Program estimated the global warming potential of HFCs in 2050 could be equal to the current emissions from the global transport sector.

HFCs are a popular choice for refrigeration manufacturers as a replacement substance for chlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorochlorocarbons, banned since 1989 for creating a "hole" in the ozone layer of the atmosphere, which protects life below from harmful levels of ultraviolet light from the sun.

While HFCs don't harm the ozone layer, experts said their growing popularity could lead to an accumulation that could hold back efforts to limit human-induced global warming.

"While these 'replacement for replacement' chemicals cause near zero damage to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases in their own right," Achim Steiner, U.N. Environment Program executive director, said.

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