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General Motors announced that it will convert the air conditioning systems in its entire fleet of Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GM models from using high-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants to a new refrigerant with a much lower climate impact. The HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerant currently used in virtually every American model car and truck, HFC-134a has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400 compared to the new refrigerant's (HFC-1234yf) GWP of 4.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from mobile air conditioning account for approximately 40 percent of all annual US HFC emissions. Introduced as replacements for ozone depleting substances, HFCs do not damage the ozone layer but are potent global warming agents and considered 'super' greenhouse gases.
Widely used as refrigerants, aerosol propellants and in foam blowing applications, scientific studies have indicated that soaring worldwide demand for HFCs could sabotage efforts to combat climate change. This threat and the opportunity to replace HFCs with low-impact alternative refrigerants has prompted efforts by environmentalists and the Obama Administration to eliminate HFCs' and their growing contribution to global warming.
"GM's decision to eliminate HFCs heralds the beginning of the end for an entire class of greenhouse gases," said Alexander von Bismarck, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency. "We should expect other automakers and manufacturing sectors to follow GM's lead, and for the transition to alternative and natural refrigerants to accelerate dramatically."
GM's announcement is also expected to have profound impacts in developing countries that represent the largest area of growth for HFC production and use. The recent effort by Canada, Mexico and the United States to secure an international agreement to phase out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol should also benefit as it becomes apparent that the world's largest consumer and import markets are moving away from HFCs.
"Consumers and producers alike need to recognize that HFCs are no longer part of the solution but part of the problem and one that we can solve," added Bismarck.
To view EIA's reports on climate and atmosphere, visit: