We have become used to feeling guilty when buying anything with a CO2 emission level of more than 100g/km. Cars are, after all, the biggest threat to a clean environment, we have come to believe.
That may not be the case for much longer. According to the latest statistics published by the United Nations Environment Programme, by 2050 HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) could be responsible for environmental pollution equal to 3.5 - 8.8 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year - the same or even more than that produced by the transport industry.
HFCs are the by-product of refrigerators, air conditioners, fire-fighting equipment and insulation foams - all of which are increasingly used in our modern society. Currently HFCs are responsible for less than a percent of all greenhouses gases, but according to the UNreport this will increase to between 7% and 19% by 2050. Using a different scenario, the report says this could be as high as 45%.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP and also the UN Under-secretary General says HFCs pose a major challenge to society. He says these are powerful greenhouse gases - but fortunately there are other alternatives available.
Among the solutions the UN suggests are: improving the design of buildings to eliminate the need for air conditioning and using alternatives such as dimethyl ether and ammonia.
This brings us to the worrying conclusion that if you drive a smoke-belching old wreck with the air-conditioner running 24/7 you are polluting the environment in more ways than one.
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