Nitrous oxide, which is also called laughing gas, can be used in many ways. Dentists use it to reduce the anxiety of their patients. The chemical compound is also used as fertilizer. But too much of anything is bad, and it seems that we’re generating too much nitrous oxide.
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While carbon dioxide (CO2) is responsible for about 10 times more warming than nitrous oxide, laughing gas is 300 times more potent and stays in the atmosphere for a century or more. To get serious about the matter, an international team of scientists from 48 research institutions banded together to investigate the impact of this versatile chemical compound. The team have called the study the most comprehensive picture to date of N2O emissions.
For the study published in Nature, the team measured natural and human-caused N2O emissions between 1980 and 2016. Overall, global N2O levels have risen by 20 percent from pre-industrial levels, with a surge in the last half-century.
These emissions are increasing at a faster rate than the goal set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to limit warming by less than 2°C (3.6°F), with an ideal scenario tightening that limit to less than 1.5°C (2.7°F). Instead, emissions are in line with a scenario that is above 3°C (5.4°F) from pre-industrial levels.
Where does this large amount of nitrous oxide emission come from? How can we reduce the emission?
Answers over at IFL Science.
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