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Propane-based AC might slow global warming

In Arizona, air-conditioning is nearly as obligatory as water bottles, and AC demand will only rise as climate change drives more frequent and severe heatwaves.

Now, new research suggests switching to propane-based AC could reduce global warming potential.

Globally, one-tenth of electricity goes toward powering air-conditioning. Based on current trends, that will more than triple by 2050.

Part of the problem: Widely used refrigerants like HCFC-22 and HFC-410 trap more than 2,000 time as much heat as carbon dioxide.

Conversely, a study in the journal PNAS shows propane has less heat-trapping potential than CO2 or the best alternative HFC.

Propane systems are already available in China and India, but are barred by some national regulations, mainly due to propane’s higher flammability.

Nicholas Gerbis was a senior field correspondent for KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk from 2016 to 2024.