Hydrofluorocarbons [HFC] have proved to be an excellent replacement for chlorofluorocarbons [CFC], which have been phased out of production for environmental reasons.
Chlorofluorocarbons originally were very popular used as propellant in aerosol spray cans and as a refrigerant gas in both stationary and mobile refrigeration units. In the automobile segment, CFCs such as R-12 were a safe and effective air-conditioning refrigerant. Eventually it was discovered that CFCs were destructive to the atmosphere, specifically the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful radiation from the sun.
In the late 1970s, CFCs began to be phased out in favor of new non-ozone-depleting gases in the hydrofluorocarbon family. By 1994, almost all countries had ceased the production of CFCs, although there may still be thousands of tons of the stuff in old equipment that will need to be recovered and destroyed. Hydrofluorocarbons have been slightly less effective as a refrigerant, but do not affect the ozone layer.
Mass production and use of hydrofluorocarbons has led to another discovery that they are very potent greenhouse gases. While much of the focus of greenhouse gas reduction has been on carbon dioxide [CO2], it should be noted that other gases are far more potent. Methane [CH4] is about 20x more potent than CO2, and HFC R-134a [CH2FCF3] is about 3,300x more potent.
At first, China and the US, the biggest producer and user of hydrofluorocarbons, respectively, balked at the Montreal and Kyoto Accords requirement to eliminate HFCs by 2030. China and the US have finally reached an agreement to eliminate this potent greenhouse gas.
Mark Roberts, international policy advisor for the Environmental Investigation Agency [EIA], said “The bilateral agreement between China and the United States sends a strong signal for other countries like India and Brazil to follow suit. If the largest consumers of HFCs are agreeing to phase down these potent greenhouse gases, other countries should join the consensus and take real action to combat climate change.”