Though enacted to stop the hole in the ozone layer, the Montreal Protocol may also be able to be used to combat climate change. Image of the ozone hole at its largest extent in 2006: Wikipedia.
While the shift in Congressional control last week may well have eliminated any chance of climate legislation in the US for a while, and by extension at the international level as well, The New York Times highlights an interesting end run being made to address a less-publicized but incredibly potent greenhouse gas.
At the 22nd meeting of the signers of the Montreal Protocol (the one which was enacted to eliminate chemicals creating a hole in the ozone layer), progress is being made to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, which have thousands of times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. Here's the EPA on HFCs and other high-global warming potential gases:
Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (i.e., CFCs, HCFCs, and halons). These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases ("High GWP gases").
Though no final agreement is expected this year--there's some wrangling about the speed with which a phase-out should occur--the US backs a phase-out, there isn't anywhere near the level of dissent that has accompanied negotiations about what comes after the Kyoto Protocol, and all it would not need Congressional approval to come into effect.
Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development told the Times, "Eliminating HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the single biggest chunk of climate protection we can get in the next few years."
The EPA says that phasing out HFCs could take out the equivalent of 88 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2050, effectively slowing global warming by a decade.
More background on the Montreal Protocol and these current proposals: Montreal Protocol Climate Treaty May Be Broadened
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