LCDs cause greenhouse gas worries

July 4, 2008 | 09:24

Tags: #al-gore #carbon-dioxide #environment #global-warming #gore #greenhouse #lcd

Companies: #geophysical-research-letters

Just when you thought you were getting to grips with your carbon footprint, along comes another greenhouse gas that'll roast the world to death – and this time it's your monitor that's at fault.

According to CNet, quoting a study in the Geophysical Research Letters journal published on the 26th of June this year, nitrogen trifluoride – a gas used in the production of LCD displays and various semiconductors – may well be proving more damaging to the environment than the current villain de jour, carbon dioxide.

The gas, which is used for the chemical vapour deposition process during the production of liquid-crystal displays and related products, is thought to be some 17,000 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – which isn't terribly good news vis-à-vis global warming. Worse still, the worldwide production of the gas this year alone will result in emissions equal to the entire greenhouse gas emissions of Austria – from a single chemical.

Atmospheric chemist Michael Prather, one of the brains behind the report, told New Scientist that production of nitrogen trifluoride is likely to reach 8,000 metric tonnes in 2009.

Unlike other greenhouse gases nitrogen trifluoride isn't regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, which was drawn up back in 1997 – before LCD displays had reached the mass-market status they enjoy now. As a result, it was considered a non-issue despite its potency as a greenhouse gas. Ironically, many companies deliberately chose to use nitrogen trifluoride in their factories in order to cut pollution.

Quite what the solution is, no-one knows. I can't see people voluntarily giving up their lovely flat-screen displays, and production is going to continue apace. The best answer would be for an alternative to nitrogen trifluoride to be found that doesn't result in massive increases in production costs – but that's going to take time and money. In the mean time, your low-energy TFT might be reducing your carbon footprint, but what about the rest of the impact on the environment?

Do you see the massive increase in nitrogen trifluouride production as a problem, or should the tree-huggers take their plastic shoes and leave you and your big screen alone? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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