February 24, 2024

Gases emitted by appliances contribute more to global warming – Science


Fluorocarbons and related gases are found in refrigerators and air conditioning systems – and they contribute to global warming. But what materials and gases are actually used in our devices?

From the Environmental Protection Agency

Reading time: 2 minutes

Archives – Gases from refrigerators or air conditioning systems become harmful only when released.

Photo: Caroline Seed-Desmanil/DPA

Wiesbaden (dpa). After years of decline, the potential global warming effect of fluorinated greenhouse gases used in Germany has recently remained unchanged. As reported by the Federal Statistical Office, it was as high in 2022 as it was in 2021.

The “potential” limitation refers to the fact that these gases are mostly used in closed systems such as air conditioning systems. Their environmentally harmful effects only occur when they are released. “In this regard, the amount of fluorinated greenhouse gases used in a given year is not directly related to the amount of these gases emitted in a given year,” the office explains.

According to the Federal Office, about 5,984 tons of fluorinated greenhouse gases were used in Germany in 2022. This corresponds to 7.0 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – the same number in 2021. In previous years, the potential greenhouse effect of these gases decreased significantly Steady. In 2015, it amounted to 17.2 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Conversion to carbon dioxide equivalents is necessary because different greenhouse gases have different impacts on the climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2), which has a warming potential of 1, serves as the comparison variable. CO2 equivalent expresses the number of tons of carbon dioxide that the greenhouse gas in question contributes to global warming.

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The factor that keeps the refrigerator cool

The Federal Environment Agency expects Germany's greenhouse gas emissions in 2022 to reach 746 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. This was about 2% lower than in 2021. Therefore, the share of fluorinated greenhouse gases in all greenhouse gas emissions was 1.3% in 2022.

The most widely used fluorinated greenhouse gas in Germany is tetrafluoroethane. Over a 100-year period, the substance contributes 1,300 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide, according to statisticians. In 2022, 2.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent of this gas were used – mostly as a refrigerant, for example in air conditioning systems and refrigerators.

But compared to 2021, the amount used has decreased. This means that the probability of this substance being emitted is slightly reduced by approximately eight percent. Tetrafluoropropene is used, among other things, as a substitute for tetrafluoroethane. This has a much smaller impact on the climate. The use of this gas increased by approximately ten percent from 2021 to 2022.

Research center Agora has also published preliminary calculations suggesting that Germany will produce fewer greenhouse gases overall in 2023 than it has in seven decades. Accordingly, emissions fell by 73 million tons from 2022 to 2023 to a total of 673 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents – equivalent to a 46 percent decrease compared to 1990.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:240105-99-500701/4