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Other Direct Greenhouse Gases - PFCs and SF6

high cloudsPerfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) are greenhouse gases with atmospheric lifetimes of more than 1000 years. They are powerful greenhouse gases and today's emissions will still be affecting earth's climate in the next millennium.

Increases in these greenhouse gases are almost entirely a result of man's activity. Man's use of fluorites has given rise to significant emissions of both PFCs and SF6 in recent years. The only known sinks for these greenhouse gases are light destruction (photolysis) or ion reactions in our mesosphere.

A new and worrying development has been the discovery of a hybrid greenhouse gas derived from PFCs and SF6 (SF5CF3), which is the most powerful greenhouse gas yet discovered and whose concentration is rising rapidly.

Human Impact

Through our production of fluorites we cause significant amounts of both PFCs and SF6 to be released into our atmosphere. Though their concentrations are very small compared to the main greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the huge lifespan of these gases in our atmosphere makes them important in global greenhouse gas budgets.

Potential for control

Addressing emission of PFCs and SF6 in the same way as we currently address emissions of carbon dioxide and methane would be a step towards limiting the emission of these greenhouse gases. Awareness is key, if government was fully aware of the potential of these gases to contribute to global warming for millennia then legislation may be better targeted at limiting this greenhouse gas source before it reached its full potential.


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