US emissions of a greenhouse gas thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide have expanded tenfold over the past two-and-a-half decades, according to fresh government data.
And one reason - wait for it - is America's increasing reliance on solar power.
The gas, nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is a key chemical agent used to manufacture certain types of photovoltaic cells for solar panels, as well as semiconductors and LCD flat screens.
NF3 is produced in minuscule quantities compared to carbon dioxide and now adds only a wafer-thin margin to America's total greenhouse gas emissions, while carbon dioxide makes up 82 percent and methane nearly another 10 percent. But researchers warn NF3 is dangerous due to its devilish efficiency in trapping energy, and long atmospheric lifespan of up to 740 years.
NF3 is thought to be 17,200 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"By itself, NF3 is not going to create a climate problem," said Dr. Michael Prather, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, who has tracked nitrogen trifluoride emissions. "But everything adds up. Everybody should be paying attention to the pieces that all add up."