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New greenhouse gas discovered by Canadian researchers

Montreal, Dec 11 (): Scientists in Canada on Tuesday announced a discovery of a new greenhouse gas that is 7,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth.

Scientists at the University of Toronto said in a statement the substance — perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) “is the most radioactively efficient chemical found to date, breaking all other chemical records for its potential to impact climate”. They said the newly discovered greenhouse gas has unprecedented potential to warm the Earth, and said the chemical has been lurking in the atmosphere for decades.

Since the mid-20th century, PFTBA that does not occur naturally, has been used for various applications in electrical equipment and is at present used in chemically and thermally stable liquids marketed as heat transfer agents and for electronic testing.

PFTBA breaks all records for possible impacts on the climate, said the researchers at the University of Toronto’s department of chemistry. The study said PFTBA was 7,100 times more powerful at warming the Earth over a 100-year time span than CO2.

There are no known practices that would remove or destroy PFTBA in the lower atmosphere so it has a very long lifetime, possibly hundreds of years, and is destroyed in the upper atmosphere.

Time is combined in the global warming potential metric as different compounds stay in the atmosphere for different lengths of time, which defines how long-lasting the climate impacts are.

Angela Hong, who was a part of the discovery team, said PFTBA is awfully long-lived in the atmosphere and it has a very high radioactive efficiency; the result of this is a very high global warming potential. Measured over a 100-year timeframe, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7100 molecules of CO2.

Dr Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said this is a great warning to all that this gas could have a very large impact on climate change – if a lot of this substance is present. As not a lot of this substance is present now, we do not have to worry about it at present, but, he said, we have to make sure it does not grow and become a very large contributor to global warming.