Particularly in Latin America and Asia, the use of fertilisers is increasing and causing rising nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. Photo: Shutterstock


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A new study by an international group of scientists finds we are releasing more of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere than previously thought. A main factor is the significant increase of nitrogen-rich fertilisers in agriculture, in particular in East-Asia and South-America.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the third most important long-lived greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Nitrous oxide is also one of the main stratospheric ozone depleting substances— and we are releasing more of it into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study published on November 2019 in Nature Climate Change.

“We see that the N2O emissions have increased considerably during the past two decades, but especially from 2009 onwards,” said lead scientist Rona L. Thompson from NILU–Norwegian Institute for Air Research. “Our estimates show that the emission of N2O has increased faster over the last decade than estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emission factor approach.”

In the study, Thompson and scientists, including Eric Davidson of the University of the Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg, USA, found that nitrous oxide in the atmosphere has risen steadily since the mid-20th century.

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