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6.5.2. Greenhouse Warming Potentials

Although there are a number of ways of measuring and contrasting the radiative forcing potential of different greenhouse gases, the Global Warming Potential (GWP) is perhaps the most useful, particularly as a policy instrument. GWPs take account of the various factors influencing the radiative forcing potential of greenhouse gases. Such measures combine the calculations of the absorption strength of a molecule with assessments of its atmospheric lifetime; it can also include the indirect greenhouse effects due to chemical changes in the atmosphere caused by the gas. A number of GWPs are listed in Table 6.3 (IPCC, 1995).

Table 6.3. Global Warming Potentials of the major greenhouse gases

 

Trace Gas

Global Warming Potential
(relative to CO2)

Integration Time Horizon, Years

20

100

500

CO2

1

1

1

CH4 (incl. indirect)

62

24.5

7.5

N2O

290

320

180

CFC-12

7900

8500

4200

HCFC-22

4300

1700

520