Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC's) and Climate Change

Remember how we all stopped using CFC's in fridges, in hairspray, all because of the hole in the Ozone layer? We replaced CFCs with HFCs and the hole did get smaller but now we know HFCs are even worse for the atmosphere. Our project, Game Changer looks at the chemistry that caused another conundrum as we explore tales of Earnest Environmental Efforts .. gone wrong.

Part Three of The Current

Hydrofluorocarbons and Climate Change

We started this segment with a hair spray ad for Groom & Clean ... A grooming miracle in a spray can ... or an ozone bomb, depending on how you looked at it. People worried about the fate of the Kyoto Protocol often take heart in the Montreal Protocol. It's an example of a successful environmental treaty.

The Montreal Protocol of 1987 was a game changer for the ozone layer. It called for phasing out chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs ... chemicals used most commonly as coolants and in aerosol cans. CFCs inflicted tremendous damage on the ozone layer, the protective barrier that blocks harmful solar radiation.

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, were phased in as a safer alternative. But not safer to the climate apparently. A report released last month by the United Nations Environment Program says that HFCs could potentially contribute to global warming. And consumption of HFCs is booming around the world.

Joseph Alcamo is the chief scientist with the UN Environment Program, and we reached him in Nairobi, Kenya.

Hydrofluorocarbons and Climate Change

So imagine you work in an industry that relies on a particular family of chemicals that make your products better and seem to improve the quality of life. And then you find out they may actually be doing more harm than good.

Brian Wastle has been there. Before he retired, he was the Vice-President for Responsible Care with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. Brian Wastle joined us from Ottawa.

Hydrofluorocarbons and Climate Change

Scientists, engineers and industry are in the business of solving problems. But it's all too common for those solutions, like HFCs, to create brand new hurdles.

Martin J. Smith is a journalist and co-author of two books documenting popular culture, including Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes that Shaped America. We reached him at his home in Los Angeles.

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Last Word - Work without e-mail promo

Tomorrow on The Current, producer Tina Pittaway looks at efforts to control what some say is a major impediment on business productivity. The Last Word goes to --- e-mail.

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