The emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide or methane, soared between 1980 and 2020, releasing over 10-million metric tons into the atmosphere primarily attributed to farming practices. The Global Carbon Project’s report highlighted that agricultural activities were responsible for 74% of human-driven nitrous oxide emissions in the 2010s, mainly due to the use of chemical fertilizers and animal waste on croplands. The continuous rise in nitrous oxide emissions has adverse effects on the environment, including soil, water, and air pollution, as well as contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer and exacerbating climate change.

Agricultural emissions reached 8 million metric tons in 2020, recording a 67% increase from the levels observed in 1980. Despite global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nitrous oxide emissions have been on the rise, outpacing previous predictions. The concentration of atmospheric nitrous oxide reached 336 parts per billion in 2022, marking a significant increase over pre-industrial levels that far exceed expectations set by leading climate change organizations. The alarming surge in nitrous oxide emissions poses a mammoth challenge in addressing global warming and its adverse impacts.

Lead author of the report, Hanqin Tian, emphasized the urgency in reducing nitrous oxide emissions to limit global temperature rise and adhere to the goals set by the Paris Agreement. With no existing technologies capable of removing nitrous oxide from the atmosphere, mitigation efforts must focus on curbing emissions from human activities, particularly in agriculture. The report outlined that the top 10 nitrous oxide emission-producing countries are primarily major economies, highlighting the need for collective action to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

To address the escalating nitrous oxide emissions, there is a pressing need for improved agricultural practices that reduce the reliance on nitrogen fertilizers and animal waste. The report emphasized the importance of regular assessments to identify high-emission regions and activities, allowing for targeted mitigation efforts. Achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement requires a comprehensive inventory of nitrous oxide sources and sinks, underscoring the importance of global collaboration and policy interventions to combat climate change.

The rise in nitrous oxide emissions represents a significant environmental challenge that demands immediate action. As the world grapples with the escalating impacts of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including nitrous oxide, is vital to safeguarding the planet’s future. Addressing the root causes of nitrous oxide emissions, particularly in agriculture, through sustainable practices and policy interventions, is crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change and working towards a greener, more sustainable future for all.


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