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December 27, 2013 |
With a name like perfluorotributylamine, the latest greenhouse gas to be discovered is a tongue twister. But you should learn how to say it, as this synthetic chemical could mean dangerous business for the climate.
Perfluorotributylamine (or PFTBA) is an artificial compound commonly used since the 1950’s in electrical equipment and heat transfer agents. According to a recent study in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters , PFTBA has a significantly higher capacity to capture solar radiation than carbon dioxide. How significant? PFTBA is about 7,100 times more effective than CO2 at heating the globe over a 100-year span.
"We claim that PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of any molecule detected in the atmosphere to date," Angela Hong, a Toronto based co-author of the report, told The Guardian. Furthermore, the molecule can stay in the atmosphere for quite a long time – about 500 years. This longevity greatly exceeds CO2, which is constantly being cycled back into organic material through ecological processes (although not nearly as quickly as it is emitted by industrial sources). But don’t panic yet. Based on measurements taken in Toronto, the gas is 0.18 parts per trillion in the atmosphere. When compared to carbon dioxide levels – now at 400 parts per million – that is a tiny contribution to global temperature rise. "From a climate change perspective, individually, P
But don’t panic yet. Based on measurements taken in Toronto, the gas is 0.18 parts per trillion in the atmosphere. When compared to carbon dioxide levels – now at 400 parts per million – that is a tiny contribution to global temperature rise.