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New industrial greenhouse gas identified

Researchers have identified an industrial greenhouse gas, nitrogen triflouride (NF3), as a very potent greenhouse gas that has the potential of becoming a significant contributor to global warming. It is not one of the gases currently controlled under the UNFCCC.

Nitrogen triflouride (NF3) is a synthetic gas that was initially used in small quantities for rocket fuel and lasers. However, the market for NF3 use is growing rapidly, particularly for plasma applications and as a equipment cleaning agent. The authors, Michael Prathur and Juno Hsu, University of California-Irvine, note that the global warming effect over the next century of one metric ton of NF3 is about 17,200 times that for a metric ton of CO2. Of the greenhouse gases previously identified in the Kyoto Protocol, only SF6 is more potent. NF3 has a long atmospheric lifetime of about 740 years. The authors note that the high cost of NF3 will ensure users avoid its release into the atmosphere as much as possible. However, it would be very useful to initiate atmospheric monitoring of this new greenhouse gas in a major industrial city like Houston, Texas.

Source: Prathur, M.J. and Hsu, J. 2008. NF3, the greenhouse gas missing from Kyoto. GRL 35, L12810, doi:10.1029/2008GL034542, 2008.


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