Refrigeration and Climate Change Mitigation.

Old General Electric Fridgidaire. Image — Sabrina Eickhoff, Pixabay Creative Commons.

One of the most effective ways for the individual person to mitigate climate change is to replace their refrigerator and air-conditioners (for those fortunate enough to have refrigeration and air-conditioning) with models that use natural refrigerants, for example ammonia, as a coolant and also importantly to ensure that the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) coolant in their existing cooling equipment is contained upon disposal. The HFCs contained are then able to be changed into non greenhouses gases.

Refrigerators and air-conditioners previously used the refrigerants chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) until it was realized that these chemicals upon escaping into the atmosphere were depleting the ozone layer in the stratosphere. The chlorine present was splitting the ozone O3 and changing it to oxygen O2 reducing its ability to interact with solar radiation. An international agreement, the Montreal Protocol, was made in 1987 to stop the production of ozone depleting gases.

Those ozone depleting gases have largely been replaced by the HFCs previously mentioned, but these have a greenhouse gas capacity to warm the atmosphere far greater than carbon dioxide CO2. In 2016, nearly 200 countries came together in Kigali, Rwanda to agree on a solution to this problem. They agreed to make an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, beginning in 2019, to change the use of HFCs to alternative refrigerants already available, such as ammonia. This is known as the Kigali Amendment.

HFCs forming part of a group of synthetic greenhouse gases (SGGs) and their use in refrigeration and emissions are now controlled internationally by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol.

Australia is party to the Montreal Protocol and has implemented the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 which controls the import, use and disposal of SGCs in Australia. It says that controlling the use of SGCs worldwide will reduce emissions by 90 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent by 2050. (1 billion tonnes = 1 gigatonne).

Consider changing over to ammonia coolant, already widely used in caravans, camper vans and off grid homes, to make a large impact on climate change. The emissions reduction from changes in refrigeration, along with increasing wind and solar generated electricity, are set to make a truly impactful change.


Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol: another global commitment to stop climate change (2016)

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987)

Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act (1989)

The Montreal Protocol (1987)



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Peter Miles

45 years in Environmental Science, B.Env.Sc. in Wildlife & Conservation Biology. Writes on Animals, Plants, Soil & Climate Change.