The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends

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Dividends, Baby!

I love cash, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one! A group of smart, conservative Washington DC dudes have proposed a plan to discourage carbon emissions and get families paid about $2,000 per year.

The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends would tax companies that produce carbon emissions (which leads to climate change and pollution) where it enters the economy (at the mine, the well or when it’s imported or exported). The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon and increase over time.

Americans would receive dividends (payments) from the revenue, so an American family of four would receive a $2,000 check each year. The dividend is intended to help families supplement their income as the economy adjusts to the higher price of fossil fuels since gas and oil companies will pass the higher prices onto consumers. Eventually, renewable energy would become the more cost efficient option.

“We the People deserve to be compensated when others impose climate risks and emit heat-trapping gases into our shared atmosphere. The new ground rules make intuitive sense: the more one pollutes, the more one pays; the less one pollutes, the more one comes out ahead. This, for once, would tip the economic scales towards the interests of the little guy,” states the paper.

The International Monetary Fund agrees that a carbon tax is the best way to get energy prices right. The Citizens Climate Lobby supports a similar plan. These plans actually offer real solutions to climate change.

The plan reduces the need for regulations which the oil and gas companies will love. It encourages renewable energy investment and innovation. It puts money into American families pockets.

We’re Already Paying For Pollution and Climate Change

American families are already paying for the waste created by the oil and gas companies.

Outdoor air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Drilling, smog and pollution trigger asthma. We pay for the effects of climate change when major storms (exacerbated by climate change) like hurricane Sandy cause major damage to our communities. We are already paying for this with higher taxes, higher insurance costs and medical bills. It’s time the fossil fuel companies started paying us back.

“Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right,” says Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Subsidizing Energy

The International Monetary Fund says when you calculate externalities into the subsidies that energy companies already get, fossil fuels start to look a whole lot more expensive. Renewables that already receive federal subsidies (such as roof top solar panels and wind energy) start to sound a lot cheaper.

The federal government subsidizes most energy companies through tax credits and cash given to companies and individuals. Energy companies have gotten subsidies since 1916 and I doubt that’s ending any time soon.

Subsidies aren’t necessarily bad. Farmers get to deduct the cost of the fuel they use to run equipment. Homeowners can get tax credits for installing roof solar panels. Low income families can buy energy at a reduced price. Oil and gas companies get to write off the cost of manufacturing and exploration. It’s just a bunch of tax code.

Externalities like air pollution and climate change on the other hand are not as cut and dry. They’re not written into the tax code. Families pay for them indirectly through higher taxes and insurance bills. Which is why it’s about time that families get paid back for unnecessary health risks and climate change. It’s time for oil and gas companies to motivate toward efficiencies and to innovate in a greener direction.

A Call To Action

If you agree that it’s time for a carbon dividend and tax, contact your Senator and Representatives and ask them to bring up the plan in Congress.

This sounds hilarious to me, but you can actually tweet Congress. The part of me that still feels like a 21 year old college student thinks this is awesome! The conservative mom part of me wants to ask what this world is coming to when politicians send and receive messages in 140 characters or less on something called Twitter?

If you’re too old to tweet, call or email your representative.  I did all of the above. It took about 10 minutes. I wrote one quick email and copied and pasted that for all of my representatives, which probably saved a minute or two.

If you’re not sure who your representative is you can find out here.

Go now, and tweet your Congress person. Tell them you want your carbon dividends, please. Ask them nicely!

Update: Yesterday (3/17/17) Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Congressman Ryan Costello (PA06) and 14 other House Republicans released the “Republican Climate Resolution” which outlines their commitment to protecting the environment and ending climate change. When you call, email or tweet Congress ask them to support the Republican Climate Resolution, too!

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All Americans First

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The Power of Ideas

I became an American citizen in 2011 and it’s the only test I’ve ever enjoyed studying for. Maybe that’s why Trumps An America First Energy Plan is bugging me so much. It leaves a whole lot of Americans out. The America I know and love was built by millions of people who shared and developed different ideas and dreams about what America could look like. Any American energy plan that leaves out renewable energy misses out on what really makes America great, and that’s a diversity of ideas, jobs and people. We use enough energy to justify developing all ideas related to energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.

The plan is short on details, but it leans heavily toward the idea that increasing fossil fuel production will create greater prosperity for Americans and that protecting the environment is holding Americans and businesses back. It focuses on developing shale, oil and natural gas. It does not mention renewable energy at all.

It’s hard to argue against ideas, but I’ll try.

Job Killers

“A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health.”

The idea here is that developing fossil fuel production will stimulate the economy but renewable energy will not. That’s not true.

“When renewables start to displace fossil fuels, the direct comparison suggests a net gain, which is confirmed by a look at the broader economy. Filling up a car’s gas tank and use of electricity in a fossil-fuel- or nuclear-based power grid do not generate many jobs, either in the energy sector or among its suppliers. These sectors generate far fewer jobs than average consumption spending does. By contrast, renewables and investment in energy efficiency generate more jobs than demand for other goods and services,” according to the International Monetary Fund.

Real Jobs

I can’t actually quote anything from the plan regarding renewable energy or energy efficiency jobs because they are not mentioned in the plan, but the silence speaks for itself.

Energy job numbers are a total snooze but stay awake and just scan em! The point I’m trying to make with these numbers is that renewable energy and energy efficiency is already a large chunk of the energy jobs in the United States. Any realistic plan needs to include these workers and the contributions they make to America’s energy mix.

  • Energy Efficiency – 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in
    the design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services.
  • Oil and Petroleum – almost 516,000 workers nationwide
  • Solar Jobs – Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms.
  • Wind farms –  102,000 workers
  • Natural Gas – 88,242 workers
  • Coal electrics generation and coal fuels –  160,119 jobs
  • Hydroelectric generation –  65,554 workers
  • Nuclear generation technologies – 68,176 workers
  • Bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies – 112,642 workers
  • Corn ethanol fuels – 28,613 jobs
  • Other Biofuels (algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas, and advanced biofuels) –  22,504 workers

We Have a Ton of Oil!

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.

There’s the idea that we are not tapping into the energy resources we already have, but the United States is already the worlds biggest oil producer. The US surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil and natural gas production in 2014. The largest oil and natural gas deposit ever found in the United States was discovered in Texas in 2016. So yes, we already do have a ton of domestic energy right here in America. From oil, natural gas, solar and wind energy. So lets recognize that…since we are already doing it!

Shale Oil and Oil Shale

We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

The US does have a whole lot of “shale oil” (AKA tight oil), making America more oil rich than Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, shale oil is extracted through fracking. Fracking works by shooting water and sand into rock formations. The environmental impact is water contamination and earthquakes, and of course climate change from carbon emissions. Water contamination and fracking made earthquakes are real environmental bummers.

So yes, we do have a lot of untapped “shale oil,” but that oil doesn’t come without major environmental consequences. Plus, Americans are indirectly subsidizing these oil companies when they pay out of pocket for damage done to their homes through fracking earthquakes as well as polluted well water.

Then there’s “oil shale.” Yes, it’s different from “shale oil.” No, the America First Energy Plan does not specify if it means “shale oil” or “oil shale” which makes it even more ambiguous and ripe for misinterpretations.

“Even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia,” according to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS Information Center.

That’s a lot of oil… but it’s never really that simple is it?

“Estimates vary, but turning oil shale into gasoline or diesel may lead to three or more times as many heat-trapping gas emissions than conventional oil,” according to the UCSUSA.org. “At present, oil shale is not a commercially viable product in most of the world, as the same processes that make it dirty also make it expensive.”

So yes, we have a ton of oil shale and shale oil, but they shouldn’t be lumped together. Neither will lead to energy independence or a sustainable future for our children. Neither is the key to a sound American energy policy.

“Natural” Gas

The America First Plan doesn’t say this, but I do know that there’s the mistaken idea that natural gas is a better choice for the environment. Maybe because it has the word “natural” in it? Despite the name “natural gas” it’s not necessarily any more or less natural than coal or oil. And yes, we have a ton of it, or at least enough to last about 93 years. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, and methane is a greenhouse gas way more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks during the extraction process, leading to more greenhouse gas emission.

So although natural gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, it’s not a better solution for the environment. So just disregard the word “natural” when you think about “natural” gas. It’s about as natural as all the other fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are really just ancient plants and animals that turned into “fossil” fuels over millions of years. They’re not unnatural, but they’re also not the great for the environment.

American Energy For All Americans

I agree with the idea that we need to get our energy from right here in the United States. We should be tapping into our resources. I just think we need a long term, sustainable plan that recognizes that fossil fuels are a great source of wealth and prosperity for many Americans, but also that fossil fuels are frying our planet.

In many ways, America itself is just an idea. People all over the world dream of coming to America. There’s room for all American’s ideas and dreams. My big idea is that my kids will have kids one day and they’ll talk about how lucky they are that our generation ended climate change and created a whole lot of prosperity for all Americans. My idea is that we can work out an energy plan that works for everyone. More about that soon… so until then, go outside!

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Climate Change & Starving Children

This article about children in Madagascar dying from starvation because of climate change is bothering the heck out of me. How can it be possible that children are starving in Madagascar from the effects of climate change when my children refuse to finish their dinners? The yummy Mac & Cheese that I lovingly prepared with sweet potato mush in order to add some actual veggies to their otherwise pasta-centered diets. These children in Madagascar are eating cactus. Cactus because there’s no actual food to grow because climate change has dried up their land.

“Climate change, disproportionately caused by carbon emissions from America, seems to be behind a severe drought that has led crops to wilt across seven countries in southern Africa. The result is acute malnutrition for 1.3 million children in the region, the United Nations says,” according to NYTimes.com.

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So who really gives a shit? Who gives an actual shit about those poor, starving children in Madagascar? All I really know about Madagascar is that it’s the name of a Disney movie. Disney, right?

Anyway, I don’t really even know where Madagascar is. But the thing is this… I’m a mom and moms stick together. There are moms eating rock soup because there’s no food and whatever food there is you know they are giving it to their children. Because they are moms, and that’s what moms do.

The other thing is this… I’m a mom who has a computer and our family has four iPads. That’s right. Four iPads. I actually don’t feel the least bit guilty for being rich enough to own four iPads, but I do feel incredibly guilty because creating those iPads and the computer that I’m writing on did contribute to climate change. And climate change is starving children in Madagascar. Call me a tree-hugger or do-gooder or niave or trite, but this shouldn’t be considered business as usual. Children should never starve, whether they live in the United States or Africa (according to Google-the-all-knowing, Madagascar is a large island nation off the southern coast of Africa). The way I live my life should not contribute to anyone’s starvation. But it does.

I don’t have any answers, but I hope it bothers someone other than just me. So what can I do for the children in Madagascar? I really don’t know. I can certainly send money to the organization that’s providing food and services to these families. I think I can turn off the LED lights in the rooms that I’m not in and kiss my kids and pray that we can change the course that we are on before climate change dries up the farms that grow all our children’s food.

I hope the Elon Musks and Bill Gates of the world create technology that ends our dependence on fossil fuels. I hope enough moms and dads vote for good leaders who understand that climate change ends at home and in our own communities. I hope my kids will eat their Mac & Cheese so it doesn’t have to turn into methane in some garbage dump.

I’ll continue to educate myself on climate change and try to the best of my ability to make better decisions so more children don’t have to starve in Madagascar because their land is so dry it will only grow cactus. I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep praying that those beautiful kids on a large island nation in southern Africa called Madagascar will get to eat some real food today.

 

 

Climate Progress Without Support From The Trump Administration

Can We Slow Climate Change Without Government Intervention?

As we look at the next four years with a Trump Presidency, we are unlikely to see Federal support for climate change progress. The International Energy Agency states that we absolutely need government to slow the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, for the next four years, that simply might not happen. So how can Americans move forward with climate change progress without help from the Federal government? Nonprofits, business leaders and states will need to lead the way.

Rocky Mountain Institute

Amory Lovins, cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), offers a compelling argument that we can transform our energy system and slow climate change without government intervention.

The RMI outlines how we can do this through advancing technology in transportation, energy efficiencies and advancements in renewables, greener buildings and industry improvements.

Transportation: “Super efficient autos, trucks, and planes, far more productively used, would need three-fourths less fuel, no oil, and less lifecycle cost,” according to RMI.

Electricity: “Dramatically increased energy efficiency could flatten or even modestly decrease total electricity use, despite a 158 percent bigger 2050 economy and electrified autos,” according to RMI.

Industry: “Just two purposes—running motors and heating materials—account for more than three-quarters of U.S. industry’s primary energy use,” according to RMI. This can be done more efficiently.

Buildings: Buildings use a lot of energy. Through building and remodeling methods developed by organizations such as LEED (developed by the U.S. Green Building Council) and Net Zero Homes, buildings can significantly reduce energy consumption and decrease their environmental impact.

 

Industries Leading The Green Revolution:

These businesses and industries are leading the green revolution and changing how business as usual gets done:

Tesla – Always on top of the green companies list. They make electric cars and energy storage, just in case you hadn’t heard. Soon they will merge with Solar City, the market leader in residential solar power according to PV Magazine.

Vivint Solar – Never heard of this one? I hadn’t either, but it’s the second largest residential solar power provider after Solar City.

Ikea – The worlds largest furniture retailer: “We’re working towards 100% renewable energy – producing as much as we consume in our operations – and sourcing all of our wood from more sustainable sources by 2020,” according to the Ikea website.

Unilever – Their mainstream products such as Axe, Dove and Lipton are not usually synonymous with green living, but they are a global company with sustainability plan.

We believe that business must be part of the solution. But to be so, business will have to change; there is not ‘business as usual anymore’. Sustainable, equitable growth is the only acceptable business model. Our vision is to grow our business, whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.

Low Carbon USA – American companies such as HP Inc. and even Monsanto (a company often under serious scrutiny by the environmental community) have signed the Low Carbon USA pledge and open letter to the Trump administration and members of the US congress:

“Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius,” states part of the Low Carbon USA letter.

Cities, States and Regions

Although the Trump administration may not be on board with a climate action plan, cities and regions throughout the world are showing their commitment to becoming carbon neutral:

Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance – Lists cities that have committed to cutting greenhouse emissions 80% by 2050.

Under 2 MOU – California, Connecticut and Washington are a few states that have signed on to “The Under2 Coalition’s shared goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 2 tons per capita, or 80-95% below 1990 level by 2050,” according to Under2MOU.

Palo Alto, Ca – Cities such as Palo Alto, California, not associated with either of the above organizations, have long had sustainability plans dedicated to carbon neutrality.

Moving Forward

Although it’s frustrating that the climate action community probably won’t have support from the Trump administration, we can’t loose hope and we certainly can’t give up. It’s just an obstacle, not a dead end. Let’s build on the ideas endorsed by the Rocky Mountain Institute and continue to support companies and communities that are committed to changing business as usual.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 

Opinion: Trump and The Environment

The Day After

It’s the day after the election and I’m feeling a bit nauseated. Maybe depressed is a better word? Grasping for words today. I’m overwhelmed by the thought of a Trump Presidency and all that it might mean. Saddened that so many people felt compelled to vote for him.

But for me, optimism prevails. I love America. Born in Sweden, I could certainly uproot my family and move back there. But running away won’t solve the problems we face. I will not let fear rule my life. Fear is what got us into this mess in the first place. Fear of other people, fear of other peoples opinions and lifestyles. Fear can not get the better of me today.

So lets move forward and work with what we have

A few key bullet points from President Elect Trump’s website:

  • “Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”
  • “Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.”
  • “Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.”

As much as I oppose continuing and strengthening an energy policy that is basically business as usual (shale, oil, natural gas and coal) I see why this message appeals to some Americans. Americans want to keep energy jobs in America. I get it. I want energy jobs to stay in America as well. And just for the sake of argument, why not keep getting our dirty energy from American sources instead of importing it from other countries (lets just disregard the environmental impact at this point)? I see the appeal! I know lots of people who agree. Why import what we already have at home? We’re using the energy whether it comes from the middle east, mid west or off the California coast.

Can We All Grow Together?

The question for me becomes, can we keep and grow the business as usual energy jobs that currently exist (cole, natural gas etc) and ALSO grow renewable energy? Whether the Trump administration wants it or not, the solar power industry is booming along with the entire renewable energy industry. So can we all work together to promote green energy jobs while still keeping the jobs that currently exist?

If the Trump administration really, truly wants to “Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water,” then lets do this. Lets all work together to get it done. Democrats and Republicans working together.

Today, I truly hope that Trump will stand by this statement on his own website:

 “We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.”

Donald J. Trump’s website

A Greener Air Conditioner?

HFC Alternatives Post Kigali Amendment

When the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol passed in October, it set a timeline for the United States and Europe to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFC’s) by 2019 due to their high global warming potential (GWP). So what will todays HFC’s be replaced with and what alternatives are available today?

“Due to different thermodynamic and safety properties of the alternatives, there is no “one size fits all” solution. The suitability of a certain alternative must be considered separately for each category of product and equipment and in some cases also taking into account the level of ambient temperature at the location where the product and equipment is being used,” according to the European Commission on Climate Action‘s report on F-Gas alternatives. (HFC’s are considered F-gases also known as fluorinated gases).

What to do if you are building new or remodeling:

  • SNAP – This is the United States Environmental Protection Agencies list of approved alternatives. This list still includes HFC’s. Use this list when talking to your contractor or HVAC professional if you’re in the United States. Make sure to ask your contractor how your choice will effect your energy consumption. You need to weigh your HVAC or refrigeration choice against its energy efficiency.
  • Cool Technologies – “This website includes a sampling of companies using natural alternatives in a variety of applications. It was created to demonstrate there is already a wide array of safe and commercially proven technologies available to meet nearly all those human needs formerly met by fluorinated refrigerants,” according to Cool Technologies, a Greenpeace and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) website.
  • Energy Star – Review the Energy Star rated HVAC systems and refrigerators. Most of these will still use HFC’s for now, but they should require less energy to run and are considered best in class.
  • European Commission on Climate Action –  The European Commission offers a guide to buying climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs and HCFCs in Europe.

 What to do with the AC and refrigerator that you currently own:

  • Heat and Cool Efficiently – Energy Star has a list of what you should do to keep your current system running efficiently.
  • Recycle or dispose of it properly once it’s no longer running efficiently. “To reduce energy demand, ozone depletion, and global climate impacts, it is critical that older units be permanently removed from the energy grid and properly disposed of so that environmentally-harmful refrigerants and foam blowing agents are captured and recycled or destroyed,” according to the EPA.

The Next Generation Of HFC’s

Hydrofluoroolefins (HFO’s)

  • Hydrofluoroolefins (HFO’s) are being marketed by Honeywell and Dupont as the fourth generation refrigerant that will be used instead of HFC’s.
  • “Honeywell developed Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) that have an ultra low GWP and are non-ozone-depleting. Today these HFOs are available for mobile air conditioning, refrigeration, aerosol applications, insulating and one-component foams. Soon, new HFOs will be available to serve the high performance thermal insulation and solvent segments,” according to Honeywell.

Natural Refrigerants

Ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, air and water are considered natural refrigerants and are outlined in ASHREA’s position document on Refrigerants and their Responsible Use.

“Some of the natural refrigerants have been used in the market place for many decades although at varying degrees of application. Although environmentally superior favorable, natural refrigerants are not free of other concerns, such as corrosion, toxicity, high pressures, flammability, or in some cases lower operating efficiencies,”according to ASHREA.

 

“If a lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant is less efficient than the fluid which it replaces, any direct global warming benefit may be offset by increased energy consumption. ASHRAE’s position is that the selection of refrigerants and their operating systems be based on a holistic analysis of multiple criteria,” according to ASHREA.

“Overall, the opportunity exists for a significant percentage of current HFC use to transition to NIK [Not In Kind/Non-HFC/HFO] alternatives during the anticipated Montreal Protocol phasedown of HFCs,” according to the Center For Climate and Energy Solutions.

“By providing a broader range of alternatives, NIK alternatives provide market and price competition to patent-controlled next generation HFOs, and in some cases offer greater energy efficiency. In addition, NIK alternatives can help Article 5 Parties leapfrog from HCFCs to low-GWP alternatives. Efforts are underway but will require several more years to address changes in codes and standards to ensure a wider range of more flammable alternatives can be used safely,” according to the C2ES.

“Chemically, HFOs are a form of HFCs, but due to the negative connotations that HFCs have acquired, this new class of chemicals is being marketed under a different name. While HFOs have lower GWPs than the earlier generation of HFCs they continue to pose dangers to the environment,” according to Greenpeace.

 

“HFO’s do not provide long term, sustainable solutions. Natural substances are available and technically and economically feasible in almost all cooling applications: domestic and commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning, mobile air-conditioning, industrial processes, insulation foam blowing,” according to Greenpeace.

“As Article 5 Parties consider replacing high-GWP technologies, there is a desirability (and very real potential) to leapfrog from HCFCs to low-GWP alternatives—avoiding a shift first from HCFCs to high-GWP HFCs and at a later date from HFCs to a low- or zero-GWP alternative,” according to the Center For Climate and Energy Solutions.

Kigali Amendment Details

The Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol sets the dates for phasing out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, building insulation, fire extinguishing systems and aerosols. HFC’s contribute to global warming and were originally developed as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbon’s (CFC’s)  which deplete the ozone layer. CFC’s were phased out as part of the original Montreal Protocol.

“Following seven years of negotiations, the 197 Montreal Protocol parties reached a compromise, under which developed countries will start to phase down HFCs by 2019. Developing countries will follow with a freeze of HFCs consumption levels in 2024, with some countries freezing consumption in 2028,” according to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“HFCs are the fastest growing climate pollutants, and they pack hundreds to thousands of times the climate-warming punch of carbon dioxide, pound for pound. Scientists estimate that HFCs could add up to 0.5° Celsius to global temperatures by century’s end if their growth is not checked,” according to the NRDC.