Planet warming nitrous oxide emissions soared 40 pc in last 4 decades

New Delhi: Use of chemical fertilisers and animal waste on croplands soared deadly emissions of nitrous oxide — a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide or methane — by 40 per cent between 1980 and 2020, according to a new report on Wednesday.

The new report by the Global Carbon Project by a team of 58 researchers from 55 organisations in 15 countries showed that China, India, and the US were among the top 10 emitters. Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey, and Canada were the other top contributors.

Led by researchers from Boston College, the report noted that in 2020 agricultural emissions reached 8 million metric tonnes — a 67 per cent jump from the 4.8 million metric tonnes released in 1980.

In 2020 and 2021 nitrous oxide flowed into the atmosphere at a faster rate than at any other time in history, adding significantly to global warming, according to the report published in the journal Earth System Science Data.

Lead author Hanqin Tian, Professor at Boston College called for reducing “nitrous oxide emissions from human activities” “to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius as established by the Paris Agreement”.

It is the “only solution” as “no technologies exist that can remove nitrous oxide from the atmosphere,” he added.

Alarmingly, the report showed that the atmospheric concentration of nitrous oxide reached 336 parts per billion in 2022, a 25 per cent increase over pre-industrial levels.

The world’s farmers used 60 million metric tonnes of commercial nitrogen fertilisers in 1980. By 2020, the sector used 107 million metric tonnes. In the same year, animal manure contributed 101 million metric tonnes for a combined 2020 usage of 208 million metric tonnes.

The greenhouse gas has a global warming potential approximately 300 times larger than CO2, and presents dire consequences for Earth, said the report.

Excess nitrogen results in soil, water, and air pollution, and also depletes the ozone layer, and exacerbates climate change. It also reportedly harms health leading to paralysis and death.


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