Over the last few decades, air conditioning manufacturers have been gradually phasing out ozone-depleting refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), replacing these chemicals with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
But even as air conditioners are designed to emit fewer ozone-depleting chemicals, the rapid adoption of air conditioning throughout the developing world has caused heat-trapping HFC emissions to rise by 54% between 2007 and 2012, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals.
According to The Carbon Brief, rising temperatures and rising incomes throughout developing nations are leading more people in these countries to purchase their first indoor air conditioners. The study found that about 42% of HFC emissions come from the developing world, and this percentage is rising at a fast rate.
East Asian nations — China and South Korea, especially — accounted for 33% of developing world emissions, a major portion. In India, another rapidly developing nation, it’s more difficult to track HFC emissions because there are few air observation towers within the country.
And while HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer like their predecessors, they are still a highly potent greenhouse gas, and are hundreds of thousands of times stronger at absorbing heat than carbon dioxide.
In addition to accounting for an ever-growing chunk of HFC emissions, the study also found that developing nations aren’t accurately reporting their emissions to the United Nations, Scientific American reports.
“The bottom line of the new paper is that the very large gap in reported HFC emissions is from developing countries,” Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD), said.
As the planet’s temperatures continue to inch upward in accordance with global climate change, the developing world — which is coincidentally located in some of the world’s hottest places — will have to push for more energy-efficient air conditioning solutions.