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Climate change and industrial F-gases: A critical and systematic review of developments, sociotechnical systems and policy options for reducing synthetic greenhouse gas emissions

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  • Benjamin K. Sovacool
  • Steve Griffiths, Khalifa University of Science and Technology
  • ,
  • Jinsoo Kim, Hanyang University
  • ,
  • Morgan Bazilian, Colorado School of Mines

Humanity has come to depend on synthetic, factory made gases that have extremely significant global warming potential. Fluorinated greenhouse gases, or F-gases, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) have been termed “super pollutants” and “super greenhouse gases” given their severe and powerful impact on the climate. They are the most potent greenhouse gases known to modern science, with global warming potentials far greater than carbon dioxide, some up to almost 24,000 times more so. Troublingly, they are also the fastest growing class of greenhouse gas emissions around the world, especially in developing countries. Research suggest that almost 40% of their emissions by 2050 will fall outside the scope of international agreements such as the Paris Accord, Montreal Protocol and Kigali Amendment. Without comprehensive and sustained interventions, uncontrolled growth in F-gas emissions could offset all of the gains made by the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol, or the cornerstone of existing international climate governance, the Nationally Determined Contributions of the 2015 Paris Accord. This review asks: What options are available to mitigate the environmental impacts of F-gases and thus make their manufacturing or disposal far more sustainable? What technical solutions and innovations exist to make their industrial usage low to zero carbon? What benefits will accrue from F-gas mitigation, and what barriers will need addressed? It undertakes a comprehensive and critical review of more than 140,000 sources of evidence, and a short list of 855 studies on the topic. It utilizes a sociotechnical lens that examines the manufacturing and use of F-gases across multiple sectors (including refrigeration, electronics manufacturing, non-ferrous metals processing, and applications in consumer goods) and components of its lifecycle (including not only manufacturing, but also use, disposal and destruction). We find that there are several policies and regulations that can be employed to address this already serious and growing climate change challenge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110759
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

    Research areas

  • Anthropogenic emissions, Climate change, Climate mitigation, Fluorinated greenhouse gases, Fluorocarbons, Fugitive emissions, HFC-23, High-global warming potential emissions, Industrial decarbonization, NF3, Perfluorocarbons, PFCs, SF6, Short lived climate pollutant, Synthetic greenhouse gas, Trace emissions

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