In a dramatic agreement last week, almost 200 countries voted to phase down the use of potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners. The agreement amends the Montreal Protocol and aims to reduce global warming by 1°F by 2100. This deal will avoid emitting 80 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by the year 2050. Countries will start to phase down HFCs in 2019 and continue to reduce usage, leading to more than an 80 percent reduction in HFCs globally by 2047.
While safer chemicals are being developed to replace HFCs, a vicious cycle has become apparent: as HFCs are released into the atmosphere cause global warming, the demand for air conditioners is rapidly rising, causing more and more HFCs to escape into the atmosphere.
The agreement was reached in the Rwandan city of Kigali last Saturday as part of the Montreal Protocol, the 1987 agreement that helped save the ozone layer by nearly eradicating the use of other ozone depleting chemicals called CFCs, short for chlorofluorocarbons. The agreement is the result of years of efforts by international parties and is seen as a major milestone in the effort to fight the impacts of climate change and global warming.
President Obama praised the agreement. However, the new agreement needs to be ratified by Congress; if the Republicans win in November, they in all likelihood will vote against it as they have in the past climate change legislation.