Canadian researchers have detected another greenhouse gas—and its global warming potential is extreme. Over the course of a century, "a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 molecules of CO2," says a lead author of the study that identified perfluorotributylamine. "We claim that PFTBA has the highest radiative efficiency of any molecule detected in the atmosphere to date," Angela Hong adds. Electrical items, including transistors and capacitors, have used PFTBA since the middle of the last century, the Guardian reports, though its impact on climate was only now established.
And like certain other industrial chemicals, "it is not being regulated by any type of climate policy," says Hong. The study's silver lining: The researchers found that compared to carbon dioxide, there's relatively little of the stuff in the atmosphere: 0.18 parts per trillion around Toronto, where the study was conducted, versus 400 parts per million of CO2. But while trees and oceans act as carbon sinks, researchers say no one knows how to rid the atmosphere of the chemical, AFP notes, which could stick around for as long as 500 years. "We have to make sure it doesn't grow and become a very large contributor to global warming," an expert tells the Guardian.