Thursday, March 12, 2009

MIT Researchers Identify Potent New Greenhouse Gas

The unintended law of consequences strikes again. The 20-year old campaign to save the ozone layer has led to the widespread industrial use of a greenhouse gas 4,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide. How did we get here? The 1987 Montreal Protocol was established to limit emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and other gases that deplete the ozone layer, the big worry in the 1980s. One of the targeted compounds was methyl bromide, which was widely used in fumigation to kill weevils and mice and other pests that threaten food supplies. Methyl bromide was phased out in 2005. Dow Chemical’s AgroSciences unit came to the rescue, dusting off research on an old compound called sulfuryl fluoride, which has now become the standard fumigant. Just one problem, say researchers at MIT: Sulfuryl fluoride lasts a lot longer in the atmosphere than expected and is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide...WSJ

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