#01 Refrigerant Management

This article looks into refrigerant management as a climate change solution. It is based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative to map the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.


I have been really pleased with the way this 20-part series looking into the top 20 climate change solutions has gone. Whether you began reading at the beginning or joined part way through, your support is greatly appreciated.

We have finally arrived at the number one climate change solution. I remember when I first read Drawdown back in 2017, at first, I was surprised to see refrigerant management come in at number one. But then after reading the section and thinking about it, it totally makes sense. Many refrigerant gasses have a potency that makes their successful management key to efforts to reversing global warming.

The authors begin with the following helpful explanation:

Every refrigerator, supermarket case, and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat, making it possible to chill food and keep buildings and vehicles cool.

The rise of refrigerants that cause global warming are closely tied to the demise of the refrigerants that depleted the ozone layer, as the authors explain:

Their replacement chemicals, primarily hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), have minimal deleterious effect on the ozone layer, but their capacity to warm the atmosphere is one thousand to nine thousand times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed refrigerant management to be ranked as the most powerful climate change solution by Project Drawdown. They estimate that refrigerant management could reduce CO2 emissions by 89.74 gigatons by 5050, for a net cost of $902.8 billion. This is certainly a massive solution.

The Kigali accord was a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which dealt with ozone depleting substances. The new amendment is focussed on eliminating HFC’s, with targets for developed and developing countries. Much rests on the success of this initiative. As the authors explain:

“Scientists estimate the accord will reduce global warming by nearly one degree Fahrenheit”

The authors point towards the key step in the process where most emissions occur:

“Ninety percent of refrigerant emissions happen at end of life.”

The authors also highlight a tragic relationship between refrigeration and the environment:

“A great irony of global warming is that the means of keeping cool make warming worse.”

What you need to know

This article looked into refrigerant management as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

What is clear, is that refrigeration as it currently stands is an activity that has the potential, if left unchecked to drive massive amounts of climate change between now and 2050.

However, management practices, both currently available and under development should mean that solutions are available to tackle a problem of this magnitude. The question, as with all environmental problems is whether we have the will and the organisational skills to make it happen.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of  refrigerant management as a climate change solution?

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I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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