Air Pollution

Global Nitrous Oxide Pollution


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various GHGs

Mains level : Hazards of N2O pollution

Human emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) — a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) — increased by 30 per cent between 1980 and 2016.

Observe the above image carefully and try to find out the major contributor of nitrous oxide emission in the Global N2O Budget.

What is Nitrous oxide?

  • Nitrous oxide is a dangerous gas for the sustainable existence of humans on Earth.
  • It has the third-highest concentration — after CO2 and methane — in our atmosphere among greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
  • N2O can live in the atmosphere for up to 125 years.
  • Most N2O emissions have come from emerging countries like India, China and Brazil.

About the research

  • Nitrous oxide global concentration levels have increased from 270 parts per billion (ppb) in 1750 to 331 ppb in 2018 — a jump of 20 per cent.
  • The growth has been the quickest in the past five decades because of human emissions.
  • The research was conducted through an international collaboration between the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and the Global Carbon Project of Future Earth, a partner of the World Climate Research Programme.

Why N2O matters?

  • N2O is also the only remaining threat to the ozone layer, for it accumulates in the atmosphere over a long period of time, just like CO2.
  • The increase in its emissions means that the climatic burden on the atmosphere is increasing from non-carbon sources as well, while the major focus of global climate change negotiations is currently centred on carbon.
  • A major proportion of the N2O emissions in the last four decades came from the agricultural sector, mainly because of the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
  • The growing demand for food and feed for animals will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions.

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