COMMENTARY | Why the Chilling Fight Behind Climate Change?

Tim Whitehouse

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Why the Chilling Fight Behind Climate Change? 

PEER has recently engaged in an important climate change fight. This fight aims to block EPA and Congress from locking this country into a new generation of toxic refrigerants, many of which have significant global warming potential.

We do not need refrigerants that warm the planet and poison living things because affordable, nontoxic alternatives exist that do not contribute to global warming.

Most refrigerants in use contribute to global warming when released into the atmosphere. Fortunately, the innovative spirit that brought the world air conditioning has also brought the adoption of natural refrigerants in Europe and other forward-thinking regions. These eco-friendly alternatives possess the power to cool without contributing to the climate crisis. They represent a beaconof hope for a planet that desperately needs it.

So why is the United States not rushing to embrace these new eco-friendly refrigerants?

Because this promising path faces a formidable adversary in the United States: the chemical industry. Driven by profit margins, chemical manufacturers continue to push refrigerants that worsen not only global warming but also contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These hazardous compounds have come under increasing scrutiny due to their toxic properties, prompting regulatory action at both the federal and state levels. As the federal government and many states begin to regulate PFAS because of their toxicity, the chemical industry wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress to exempt PFAS used in refrigerants from the definition of PFAS.

That is why the ongoing fight in the U.S. to define PFAS is so important. PEER is advocating that EPA and Congress define PFAS based on the presence of a carbon-fluorine bond, as they do in Europe.

This definition would cover PFAS used in refrigerants and thereby incentivize the use of natural PFAS-free refrigerants. The U.S. should follow Europe’s lead and not yield to industry pressures to use toxic refrigerants that accelerate climate change.

Unfortunately, EPA appears to be succumbing to political pressure and is kicking the can down the road on how to define PFAS. Some in Congress are even actively supporting the chemical industry on this issue.

As we brace ourselves for the pivotal years ahead, this issue will remain at the forefront of PEER’s climate efforts. We promise to keep you informed about our progress. In the meantime, please consider supporting our important climate change and toxic work.

What to learn more? Here are the presentations I gave at the conference ATMOsphere and Emerging Technologies Coordination Council where refrigeration and technology leaders are pushing for the use of natural refrigerants.

Tim Whitehouse, Executive Director of PEERTim Whitehouse is the Executive Director of PEER. Among other things, Tim formerly served as an EPA enforcement attorney.

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