Nitrous Oxide as a greenhouse gas

Greenhouse gases such as N2O are the gases which fail to leave our atmosphere due to the ozone layer. These gases are directly responsible for the depletion of the ozone and as well as harming the environment. The effects of global warming are partially due to the increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases as well. As industrial processes and manmade activities increase, the emissions of different greenhouses gases also rise exponentially. One of the gases that has drastically increased in terms of production is nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide gas is commonly used for a variety of different processes: industrial processes, as a fertilizer, as an oxidizer in rocket motors and as a catalyst for increasing the output of power by an engine in racing vehicles. Apart from the natural release of nitrous oxide, the production of this gas through manmade activities has also resulted in a pretty damaging situation. Every single molecule of Nitrous Oxide holds 300 times more potential when it comes to warming as compared to a carbon dioxide molecule, and is also the primary destroyer of the ozone layer as compared with the effect left by other gases.

In 2010, it was estimated that nitrous oxide accounted for a total of 4% of the total emissions of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Over the past century, the emissions of nitrous oxide increased by up to 20%. It has been estimated that on a global level, around 40% of the emissions of nitrous oxide can from manmade sources. Agricultural activities are the leading source of emissions of nitrous oxide gas, as the degradation of fertilizers result in the production of this gas.

Agriculture accounts for a total of 70% of the emissions of Nitrous oxide in to the atmosphere.  It is a common fact that plants need nitrogen to survive ,and even though nitrogen is abundantly available within the atmosphere, the gas itself is unable to bond with the plants. Therefore, previously farmers made use of animal manure that was rich in nitrogen, but the fertilizer industry now relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers now.

However, most of the fertilizer that is applied fails to react with the plans. The remaining portion of the fertilizer is taken up by the bacteria in the soil, evaporate in to the atmosphere or get washed away by the groundwater. This leads to a significant increase in the emissions of nitrous oxide in to the atmosphere.

Moreover, not only is nitrous oxide released by fertilizers, but various plants such as alfalfa and soybeans also convert the nitrogen in the atmosphere in to a form that can be absorbed by the plant. Hence, whenever such plants are planted, it just means that we have effectively created another source for the emission of nitrous oxide. Overall, nitrous oxide has three main synthetic sources of production: the industrial uses, transportation uses as well as agriculture. The levels of nitrous oxide are dangerously high and many international conferences and organizations have begun to take notice in order to limit production.