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America’s growing reliance on solar power may have created a new enemy for environmentalists — a greenhouse gas that’s thousands of times more potent than CO2.
CLIMATE | Nitrogen Trifluoride

Solar panel manufacturing linked to potent greenhouse gas


Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 3:51 - America’s growing reliance on solar power may have created a new enemy for environmentalists — a greenhouse gas that’s thousands of times more potent than CO2.


RELATED: Everything you need to know on CO2 (but are afraid to ask)


According to data recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide makes up 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The gas nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, accounts for only a small margin, but is on the rise. 

Overall emissions fell by 2.2 percent, and CO2 has risen only 5.6 percent from 1990 to 2015. Levels of NF3, however, have seen a 1,057 percent increase over those same 25 years. 

This exponential rise has been linked to the manufacturing sector, which uses the chemical to make solar panels, semiconductors and LCDs. This discovery threatens the construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall. 

At a rally at the US Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump proposed installing solar panels on his wall. The wall would then be able to “create energy and pay for itself” and according to Trump, “Mexico will have to pay much less money.” 

However, the Trump administration faces the problem of constructing the solar panels, which could increase the prevalence of NF3 and intensify the issue of climate change.

NF3 is mainly used as a cleaning agent to clear away excess silicone. The gas is mostly eliminated during use, but a small percentage is reportedly leaked into the atmosphere.

It’s unclear exactly how much has been leaked, but scientists warn that NF3 is highly effective at trapping heat, and can remain in the atmosphere for up to 740 years. 

Scientists warn that NF3, when combined with CO2 and other greenhouse gases, could lead to a climate problem, especially with the emissions rising not only in the U.S., but in growing solar markets in Asia as well. 

With carbon dioxide proving difficult to limit, environmentalists could soon target NF3 in their quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

RELATED VIDEO: U.S. President Donald Trump has pulled his country out of the Paris accord. Learn more below.

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nature Communications, Ecometrica

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article contained the headline of 'Solar panels linked to rise in potent new greenhouse gas'. It has since been changed to reflect the manufacturing of solar panels. We apologize for any inconvenience.

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