Nitrous fertilizer usage in agriculture generates emissions of nitrous oxide — one of the least-known, yet important, greenhouse gases.
Eri Saikawa, Emory assistant professor of Environmental Sciences, led a delegation of Emory students to the recent United Nations climate talks in Paris (COP21). An expert on greenhouse gas emissions, Saikawa wrote an opinion piece at the conclusion of the talks for The Conversation. Following is an excerpt of her article:
"Although the COP included initiatives targeting air pollution, climate and health all at once, there was a lack of comprehensive strategy for the interlinked effects of climate and agriculture at the summit.
"Agriculture contributes 10%-12% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it has altered all of the three important greenhouse gases linked to terrestrial sources: CO2, CH4 and nitrous oxide (N2O). The flip side is that there is a significant potential in agriculture for reducing these biogenic sources of greenhouse gases.
"The agricultural sector is also important because we need to pay more attention to nitrous oxide – possibly the least-known important GHG. N2O is not just a GHG; it also depletes the ozone layer in the stratosphere.
"The Montreal Protocol, which was ratified in 1989, has been effective at reducing greenhouse gases that are also ozone-depleting substances (Velders et al, 2006). However, N2O is not included in the Montreal Protocol, and its emissions are sharply rising.
"The concentrations of N2O in the atmosphere are increasing rapidly and we find that there is a statistically significant increase in emissions from the agricultural sector in Asia, including China and India. This makes sense, as the nitrogen fertilizer usage in these countries is the largest and the third-largest in the world and is only increasing."
Read the whole article in The Conversation.
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