The battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is heavily focused on replacing fossil fuel power plants with renewable energy and replacing internal combustion engine autos with electric cars. But there is another elephant in the room: air conditioners.
In 1988, President Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, which banned CFC refrigerants like Freon in air conditioners and refrigerators. The chlorofluorocarbons were the cause of a giant hole in the ozone layer, which has been shrinking ever since the ban. Unfortunately, the chemicals that replaced CFCs – hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs – have their own major problem: they are a seriously bad greenhouse gas, far worse than carbon dioxide. Last fall, an international agreement was reached by over 170 countries to reduce and eventually replace HFCs, which included 100 developing countries like China and India where air conditioning use is growing fastest.
Researchers in Antarctica have been keeping watch on the infamous ozone hole over that continent for several decades. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was a multinational agreement signed in 1987 designed to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances that enter the atmosphere. It has been amended in various ways on many occasions over the subsequent years.