Most of us are up to speed on the dangers of carbon dioxide, but we may not be as well-versed on another greenhouse gas that has the potential to trap hundreds of times more heat in the environment: Hydrofluorocarbons. Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, often fuel cooling systems like refrigerators and air conditioners and are powerful agents of global warming when they leak out into the atmosphere.
According to a new report by the U.N., replacing HFCs with more climate-friendly cooling alternatives could save the world up to 460 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (the equivalent of eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels) and reduce global warming by as much as 0.4°C by 2100.
If HFCs are such an important piece of the climate puzzle, why don’t we hear more about them? Beth Porter, the climate campaign’s director for environmental nonprofit Green America, suspects it has to do with the fact that HFC leakage is largely an invisible problem: “It’s happening in supermarkets and in our home refrigerators but it’s kind of hidden from us,” Porter tells mbg. To increase visibility for the issue, Green America just released the first public-facing campaign on how the average person can “cool it for the climate” and advocate for HFC reform. Here’s what to know about phasing out this super pollutant in your own home and beyond.