Study finds gas that warms Earth much more than C02 does

ALARM BELLS::An author of the study said the gas is not very prevalent in the atmosphere, but would be the No. 1 driver of climate warming if it proliferates

The Guardian

Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - Page 7

A new greenhouse gas that is 7,100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) in warming the Earth has been discovered by researchers in Toronto, Canada.

The newly discovered gas, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), has been in use by the electrical industry since the mid-20th century.

The chemical, which does not occur naturally, breaks all records for potential impacts on the climate, researchers at the University of Toronto’s department of chemistry said.

“We claim that PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of any molecule detected in the atmosphere to date,” said Angela Hong, one of the co-authors of the study.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that PFTBA was 7,100 times more powerful at warming the Earth over a 100-year time span than carbon dioxide.

Concentrations of PFTBA in the atmosphere are low — 0.18 parts per trillion in the Toronto area — compared with 400 parts per million for carbon dioxide. So PFTBA does not displace the burning of fossil fuels as the main drivers of climate change.

“This is a warning to us that this gas could have a very, very large impact on climate change — if there were a lot of it. Since there is not a lot of it now, we don’t have to worry about it at present, but we have to make sure it doesn’t grow and become a very large contributor to global warming,” said Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

He said that a number of recent studies had drawn attention to other potential new greenhouse gases which, like PFTBA, pack a lot of warming potential in each molecule, but are not very prevalent in the atmosphere.

Although it is less prevalent, PFTBA is long-lived.

The Toronto researchers estimated that it remains in the atmosphere for about 500 years and, unlike carbon dioxide, which is taken up by forests and oceans, there are no known natural “sinks” on Earth to absorb it.

“PFTBA is just one example of an industrial chemical that is produced, but there are no policies that control its production, use or emission,” Hong said. “It is not being regulated by any type of climate policy.”