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Rising N2O emissions pose as Climate Threat

Adya Menon

15th October 2020

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), commonly known as laughing gas, is rapidly affecting the Paris agreement's climate goals. This gas, having invaded the atmosphere for over 100 years, is 300 times more vigorous and robust than carbon dioxide. The study was led in the US and consisted of 48 research institutions that are a part of the Global Carbon Project and the International Nitrogen Initiative.

Nitrous oxide in the lethal state (Source: medical express)

The use of the nitrogen fertilisers used in food production increases the nitrous levels in the atmosphere. A 20% rise in the nitrous oxide magnitude has been discovered in the pre-industrial groups, making civilians aware that the N2O has grown immensely over the last five decades due to the emissions by various human pursuits. "The dominant driver of the increase in atmospheric nitrous oxide comes from agriculture, and the growing demand for food and feed for animals will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions. There is a conflict between the way we are feeding people and stabilising the climate", said Professor Hanqin Tian to Tribune India.

According to the director of the International Center for Climate and Global Change Research at Auburn University's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, who helped lead this study, as reported from Science Daily. Nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, can destroy and deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, which ultimately shields the earth from the sun's UV rays. According to Inside Climate, Ben Lilliston, Director of Rural Strategies and Climate Change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said that when the manure isn't accessible to oxygen towards the bottom of the pit, it gets slowly changed and converted into nitrous oxide.

It also happens when the waste gets overlapped to cropland. Burning of specific fuel sources produces Nitrous oxide. They also appear as a by-product of chemicals like nitric acid and adipic acids. Treating domestic wastewater also generates Nitrous oxide. This study teaches an all-inclusive nitrous oxide inventory which collaborates with the natural and human linked sources. It also accounts for the biochemical procedures and the nitrogen additions to the earth's structure. Nitrogen additions lead an increment of 30%, followed by human-made emissions to croplands over the past 40 years to 7.3 teragrams of nitrogen per annum.

As reported from PR News Wire, Parvadha Suntharalingam, a lead UK author of UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said, "This study presents the most comprehensive and detailed picture to date of N2O emissions and their impact on climate. This new analysis identifies the factors driving the steadily increasing atmospheric levels of n2o, and highlights the urgent need to develop effective mitigation strategies if we are to limit global warming and meet climate goals".

"This new analysis calls for a full-scale rethink in the ways we use and abuse nitrogen fertilisers globally and urges us to adopt more sustainable practices in the way we produce food, including the reduction of food waste. These findings underscore the urgency and opportunities to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions worldwide to avoid the worst of climate impacts", said the co-leader Josep 'Pep' Canadell, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia who is executive director of the Global Carbon Project, as reported by Science Daily.

East Asia, South Asia, South America, and Africa are the largest global N2O emissions suppliers. China, India, and the US are dominated by synthetic fertilisers, whereas the emissions from the implementation of livestock manure as fertilisers influence countries like Africa and South America. Emerging economies such as Brazil, China, and India have cosmic growth rates in emissions where the livestock numbers and crop production have increased.

There are various pollutants apart from carbon dioxide that is rapidly warming our climate. The scientists worldwide have been warning about nitrous oxide's risks, and still, there's been a small scale global action towards it. Reducing the nitrous oxide levels in the atmosphere could lead to a faster and massive impact on global warming since it also has a much shorter life span. According to Ravi Ravishankara, an atmospheric chemist at the Colorado State University, it intimately connected to food. He co-chaired the United Nations panel on 'Stratospheric Ozone' from 2007-2015. He also claimed that one could imagine limiting carbon dioxide, less Methane, and less of lots of things but that nitrous oxide is so much a food production issue.

As per Inside Climate News, Ron Dobosy, co-author of the study, NOAA, says that until Wilkerson's discovery, the Arctic lacked nitrogen tremendously, and now since there is a positive presence of nitrous oxide, it would have to be researched further. He also says that the harmful effects of Methane are covered more and more heavily, and it's high time that nitrous oxide is covered more too.

Sources: Science Daily, InsideClimate News, Tribune India and Pr news wire.

Edited by: Ishita Jha

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