India is world’s second largest emitter of nitrous oxide

Jun 14, 2024

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India is the world’s second largest source of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas that heats up the atmosphere far more than carbon dioxide.

Nearly 11% of such global man-made emissions in 2020 were from India, topped only by China at 16%.

The major source of these emissions comes from fertilizer usage, according to a global assessment of N2O emissions published in the journal Earth System Science Data published recently.

The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a thousand times more than that of nitrous oxide, making carbon dioxide reduction the bigger priority among countries trying to contain climate change. However, because nitrous oxide stays longer in the atmosphere and is rising rapidly, scientists in recent years have been warning that it must also be tackled with a greater sense of urgency.

Agricultural production using nitrogen fertilizers, such as ammonia, and animal manure contributed 74% of the total anthropogenic N2O emissions in the last decade. N2O emissions from human activities are responsible for 6.4% of the effective radiative forcing of greenhouse gases, and have added about 0.1°C to current global warming.

The top five country emitters by volume of anthropogenic N2O emissions in 2020 were China (16.7%), India (10.9%), the United States (5.7%), Brazil (5.3%), and Russia (4.6%).

Other factors which led to increase concentration:

Long-term impact

Once emitted, N2O stays in the atmosphere for longer than the average human lifespan (117 years), and therefore its climate and ozone impacts are long-lived.

  1. In addition to N2O emissions, the inefficient use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and animal manure also leads to the pollution of groundwater, drinking water, and inland and coastal waters.
  2. The growing demand for meat and dairy products has also contributed to an increase in emissions through the increase in manure production, which also causes N2O emissions.
  3. Increased nitrogen fertilizers used in the production of animal feed have also contributed to the increase.

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