If you thought CO2 and methane were contenders for the most destructive greenhouse gases on the planet, then you will be shocked to learn that researchers have discovered another chemical that is considerably more damaging. Scientists at the University of Toronto say that a gas called perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA) is 7,000 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year time period. Used in the electrical industry, each PFTBA molecule has a lifespan of 500 years and no known method of sequestration.

toronto, city, skyline, canada

According to the Guardian, PFTBA has been used in the electrical industry since the 20th century and does not occur naturally. While its levels in the atmosphere are relatively small compared to CO2, its potential to warm the Earth is so great that even the slightest amount could exacerbate the climate crisis. In Toronto, researchers found PFTBA concentrations of 0.18 parts per trillion, compared to 400 parts per million CO2. Although the researchers consider CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to be of primary concern, the revelation of a powerful new chemical serves as a warning that other potentially more damaging and unregulated gasses may be endangering the planet.

“PFTBA is just one example of an industrial chemical that is produced but there are no policies that control its production, use or emission. It is not being regulated by any type of climate policy,” said Angela Hong, a co-author of the study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

PFTBA is one of an entire group of molecules whose climate implications are not understood. As humans struggle to control global warming, they ought to carefully test all new chemical creations before releasing them into the atmosphere. Otherwise, models attempting to predict the future of global weather patterns and efforts to contain hazardous compounds will continue to be out of sync with reality.

+ University of Toronto

Via the Guardian

Images via Wikicommons user Ohcanadagail and NOAA