Many refrigerants, especially “F-gases” which contain the element fluorine, are such good heat absorbers that if they escape to Earth’s atmosphere they add significantly to the greenhouse effect and hence to our climate crisis. We must manage them to minimise the amount that escapes.
You have probably heard of greenhouse gases, especially CO2 – carbon dioxide. Artificial refrigerants are much more potent: the typical content of a car air conditioning system – say 500 grams of “R-134a” – has an effect equivalent to 650 kilos of CO2. That is roughly what my car would emit over 4750 km / 2950 miles.
Due to this powerful greenhouse effect, Project Drawdown estimates that tight control over refrigerant escapes has the highest potential of all climate solutions worldwide. On its own this could reduce future global warming by roughly half a degree C.
Gas escapes can occur through bad design, ignorance, laziness, carelessness, accident, etc. Losses can occur in manufacture, storage, transport, filling of equipment, leakage, equipment servicing, and disposal of equipment and containers.
The greatest losses arise from equipment disposal, with servicing second. It is no coincidence that these are the events which involve end-users and workers who have insufficient knowledge of the risks and regulations.