Which Greenhouse Gas Traps The Most Heat/Is Most Potent?

Different greenhouse gases have different potential for global warming.

Carbon dioxide gets a lot of attention, and rightly so because of the sheer volume of CO2 emitted by human activities.

But, there are other greenhouse gases which are much more potent in terms of heating potential i.e. their impact on global warming is much stronger than C02.

In this guide, we look at the warming impact of each greenhouse gas relative to C02.


Summary – Which Greenhouse Gas Traps The Most Heat?

Global warming potential is a measurement of the relative warming impact of a type of greenhouse gas

By far, the greenhouse gas with the highest GWP is SF₆ – sulfur hexafluoride (a ‘F Gas’). It has 23,500 times the GWP of carbon dioxide

There’s various uses for SF₆

Other greenhouse gases of note are Methane and Nitrous Oxide, which have GWPs of 28 and 265 respectively (relative to CO2 at a baseline of 1)

It’s important to note that although Carbon Dioxide has the lowest GWP of the above greenhouse gases, it is emitted in in huge quantities into our atmosphere, and also stays in the atmosphere the longest – which are some of the main reasons it the greenhouse gas that receives a lot of attention


Other relevant considerations for GHGs, other than which GHG traps the most heat, might be:


Global Warming Potential Of Different Greenhouse Gases Over A 100 Year Timescale

GWP measures the relative warming impact of one unit mass of a greenhouse gas relative to carbon dioxide.

A GWP₁₀₀ value of 28 therefore means one tonne of methane has 28 times the warming impact of one tonne of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timescale.

The GWP’s of different Greenhouse Gases are:

  • SF₆ – 23,500 [Sulfur Hexafluoride}
  • PFC-14 – 6,630 [Tetrafluoromethane, also known as carbon tetrafluoride]
  • Nitrous oxide (N₂O) – 265
  • HFC-152a – 138 [1,1-Difluoroethane, or DFE]
  • Methane (CH₄) – 28
  • Carbon dioxide (CO₂) – 1

– ourworldindata.org


How Do We Use SF₆ /Sulfur Hexafluoride?

  • [we use it] mainly as a test gas in respiratory physiology
  • Other uses include its injection in vitreoretinal surgery to restore the vitreous chamber and as a tracer in monitoring the dispersion and deposition of air pollutants.

– pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov


  • … it is used as a gaseous dielectric medium in the electrical industry. 
  • Other main uses include an inert gas for the casting of magnesium, and as an inert filling for insulated glazing windows.
  • In Europe, SF6 falls under the F-Gas directive which ban or control its use for several applications

– wikipedia.org



1. https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions 

2. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sulfur-hexafluoride

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfur_hexafluoride

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