New methods to measure global Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions show that synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in croplands is a significant contributor
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is an important greenhouse gas that is often overshadowed by the focus on Carbon Dioxide (CO2), but increasing concentrations of nitrous oxide over the past two centuries have also contributed significantly to climate change and ozone depletion. A recent study published in the journal Nature offers new methods to measure global sources and sinks of nitrous oxide, which include the often underestimated human causes of nitrous oxide emissions. This study found that global human-induced N2O emissions were largely related to agricultural management, particularly the use of synthetic nitrogen, which suggests that increasing organic agriculture that prohibits the use of synthetic nitrogen can have a beneficial impact of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The study also found that livestock manure and aquaculture are significant contributors of nitrous oxide gas, and that reducing global meat consumption and food waste can be impactful in mitigating N2O emissions. Overall, this study provides an important reminder that science measuring greenhouse gases should consider both natural and human-induced emissions of nitrous oxide and not focus solely on carbon dioxide emissions. Like carbon dioxide, how we manage our food production plays a critical role in mitigating NO2 emissions. A focus on reducing excess nitrogen fertilizer application through precision technology and increasing organic operations provide low-hanging-fruit strategies.
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