High global warming potential gases

What are the high GWP gases and why are they a concern?

The high global warming potential (GWP) greenhouse gases include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Like other GHGs, these gases trap heat in the atmosphere, but they are hundreds to thousands of times more effective at trapping heat, which leads to greater warming of the planet, compared to carbon dioxide (CO2).

High GWP GHGs make up a very small portion of the total greenhouse gas emissions. They are, however, very potent and long-lived, which magnifies their effect on warming.

HFCs and PFCs are used as substitutes for the ozone-depleting chemicals that are now restricted under the Montreal Protocol of 1987. These gases are used in a wide range of manufacturing plants and consumer products such as:

  • Automobile and home air conditioners
  • Refrigerators
  • Propellants in consumer aerosol products like aerosol paint, personal care products, tire inflators, party spray (foam strings), air horns
  • Spray foam insulation and other foams
  • Electric power transmission

Emissions of these chemicals are only a result of human activities. They are released  through direct use of various products, or unintentionally as an industrial byproduct. These chemicals are very stable and remain in the atmosphere for a very long time, so the concentrations of these potent GHGs will continue to rise for as long as they are in use.

Given the potency of HGWP GHGs, the MPCA collects information about certain HGWP GHGs and their uses in Minnesota. Automobile manufacturers, manufacturers of HGWP GHGs, and companies that purchase over 10,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent chemicals are required to report.