Firn-air and ambient air measurements of CHF3 (HFC-23) from three excursions to Antarctica between 2001 and 2009 are used to construct a consistent Southern Hemisphere (SH) atmospheric history. The results show atmospheric mixing ratios of HFC-23 continuing to increase through 2008. Mean global emissions derived from this data for 2006–2008 are 13.5 ± 2 Gg/yr (200 ± 30 × 1012 gCO2-equivalent/yr, or MtCO2-eq./yr), ∼50% higher than the 8.7 ± 1 Gg/yr (130 ± 15 MtCO2-eq./yr) derived for the 1990s. HFC-23 emissions arise primarily from over-fluorination of chloroform during HCFC-22 production. The recent global emission increases are attributed to rapidly increasing HCFC-22 production in developing countries since reported HFC-23 emissions from developed countries decreased over this period. The emissions inferred here for developing countries during 2006–2008 averaged 11 ± 2 Gg/yr HFC-23 (160 ± 30 MtCO2-eq./yr) and are larger than the ∼6 Gg/yr of HFC-23 destroyed in United Nations
HFC-23 is an unwanted byproduct of the production of HCFC-22, which is used as a refrigerant in air conditioners and refrigerators and as a feedstock for other chemicals. It is scheduled for an accelerated phase-out under the Montreal Protocol. It is theorized that over 100 years 1 pound of HFC-23 is 14,800 times more powerful than 1 pound of CO2 in changing the climate.
“These HFC-23 emissions are entirely unnecessary and are pushing the Earth toward unmanageable climate impacts,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of IGSD, and Director of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement. “It’s time for all HFC production to be brought under the Montreal Protocol, a treaty with a near perfect record for compliance and enforcement and the only international environmental treaty where every country in the world is a member.”
Last year, the Montreal Protocol Parties considered proposals submitted by the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius (jointly), and the US, Mexico, and Canada (jointly), that would phase down the production and consumption of HFCs under that treaty, leaving emissions in the Kyoto basket of gases. Deliberations on the issue are expected to continue this year. Further discussions are expected this year.