Powerful greenhouse gas detected

A new greenhouse gas discovered by scientists from the University of Toronto is more than 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

While few have heard of it, perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) has been in use since the mid-20th century for a variety of applications in electrical equipment. But now it turns out that PFTBA remains in the atmosphere for an extremely long period of time and is breaking all records for its potential impact on our climate.

The scientists discovered that PFTBA – which is not a naturally occurring chemical – is 7,1000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth’s climate over a 100-year period.

As the Guardian points out, concentrations of PFTBA in the atmosphere are low compared to carbon dioxide. This means that the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal are still the main drivers of climate change. Nonetheless, the discovery should be a warning that the chemical needs to be regulated so that it doesn’t become a large contributor to global warming in the future.

There are also no known processes to destroy or remove PFTBA in the lower atmosphere and there are no known natural “sinks”, unlike carbon dioxide which can be absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans. This means that it has a very long lifetime – possibly hundreds of years – before it is destroyed in the upper atmosphere.

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