Thursday, July 3, 2008

Plasma, LCDs blamed for accelerating global warming

ABC Online, Posted 11 hours 29 minutes ago 

Updated 10 hours 18 minutes ago

A gas used in the making of flat screen televisions, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), is being blamed for damaging the atmosphere and accelerating global warming.

Almost half of the televisions sold around the globe so far this year have been plasma or LCD TVs.

But this boom could be coming at a huge environmental cost.

The gas, widely used in the manufacture of flat screen TVs, is estimated to be 17,000 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.

Ironically, NF3 is not covered by the Kyoto protocol as it was only produced in tiny amounts when the treaty was signed in 1997.

Levels of this gas in the atmosphere have not been measured, but scientists say it is a concern and are calling for it to be included in any future emissions cutting agreement.

Professor Michael Prather from the University of California has highlighted the issue in an article for the magazine New Scientist.

He has told ABC's The World Today program that output of the gas needs to be measured.

"One of my titles for this paper was Going Below Kyoto's Radar. It's the kind of gas that's made in huge amounts," he said.

"Not only is it not in the Kyoto Treaty but you don't even have to report it. That's the part that worries me."

He estimates 4,000 tons of NF3 will be produced in 2008 and that number is likely to double next year.

"We don't know what's emitted, but what they're producing every year dwarfs these giant coal-fired power plants that are like the biggest in the world," he said.

"And it dwarfs two of the Kyoto gases. So the real question we don't know is how much is escaping and getting out."

Dr Paul Fraser is the chief research scientist at the CSIRO's marine and atmospheric research centre, and an IPCC author.

He says without measuring the quantity of NF3 in the atmosphere it is unclear what impact it will have on the climate.

"We haven't observed it in the atmosphere. It's probably there in very low concentrations," he said.

"The key to whether it's a problem or not is how much is released to the atmosphere."

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