Claim: Draining Swamps Contributes to the Laughing Gas Crisis

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Researchers have claimed that the laughing gas released when swamps are drained is no laughing matter.

Draining peatlands gives global rise to greenhouse laughing-gas emissions



Drained fertile peatlands around the globe are hotspots for the atmospheric emission of laughing-gas – a powerful greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide, which is partly responsible for global warming and destruction of the ozone layer, a new study shows.

Research into natural peatlands such as fens, swamps and bogs, as well as drained peatlands, found that either draining wet soils or irrigating well drained soils boosts the emission of nitrous oxide significantly.

Prof Ülo Mander, Senior Lecturer in Biogeochemistry, at the University of Tartu, who conceived this research with a global network of 36 scientists said: “Nitrous oxide is no laughing matter – it is a significant contributor to global climate change and depletion of the ozone layer, which protects our planet from cosmic radiation.

“Organic soils, such as fens, swamps, bogs and drained peatlands, make up more than one-tenth of the world’s soil nitrogen pool and are a significant global source of laughing gas. They are significant sources of nitrous oxide when drained for cultivation.”

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The abstract of the study;

Nitrogen-rich organic soils under warm well-drained conditions are global nitrous oxide emission hotspots

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas and the main driver of stratospheric ozone depletion. Since soils are the largest source of N2O, predicting soil response to changes in climate or land use is central to understanding and managing N2O. Here we find that N2O flux can be predicted by models incorporating soil nitrate concentration (NO3−), water content and temperature using a global field survey of N2O emissions and potential driving factors across a wide range of organic soils. N2O emissions increase with NO3− and follow a bell-shaped distribution with water content. Combining the two functions explains 72% of N2O emission from all organic soils. Above 5 mg NO3−-N kg−1, either draining wet soils or irrigating well-drained soils increases N2O emission by orders of magnitude. As soil temperature together with NO3− explains 69% of N2O emission, tropical wetlands should be a priority for N2O management.

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Back in 2010 Marc Morano of Climate Depot predicted that the Laughing Gas crisis would be marketed as a potential replacement for the faltering CO2 scare.

42 thoughts on “Claim: Draining Swamps Contributes to the Laughing Gas Crisis

    • Great place to hold a Grateful Dead concert! The balloon vendors might have to switch to helium, though.
      Jerry Garcia would be all over it.

    • And not draining swamps produces methane. So is the net effect any different?

      Of course, the net effect is different. Draining swamps is more fun. You die laughing, whereas not draining swamps means that you just die in climate-catastrophic agony.
      Seriously though, I think the people focusing on this seriously are already on something.

  1. I noticed that I burst into laughter when President Trump started draining the swamp in DC. I think he should finish the job even though the Ozone layer takes a hit.
    This article is another from the bozone layer I’m afraid, like the one about huffer- puffers destroying the azmasphere or Ocean Assification.

    • After all 21st Century Washington DC is the world’s biggest joke. Now we know to lay it off to laughing gas.

  2. Humans have been draining peat and bog lands for farming for a long, long time, well before the Industrial Revolution began. So without nitrous oxide, methane, CO2, etc released by all of man’s evil activities would the Earth already be in another glaciation?

    • Quite possibly. This is the so-called “early anthropogenic hypothesis”, which is an effort to explain why CO2 has not decreased during this interglacial as it has done during others.

      • TTY – that’s interesting. I didn’t know there was such a hypothesis. I’ve been thinking about this lately. There are many potential influences; the widespread clearing of forests associated with colonization and the related burning must have made a measurable difference to emissions as well as sinks. Then there are population increases, urbanization and consequent changes in land and livestock use. Hmmm, interesting subject, both on its own and because of the fact that models may be tuned or tested to the times.

  3. Nitrous oxide is also a very good source of oxygen as it readily sheds the extra oxygen. it is used for combustion boosting in IC engines.
    Leaving the swamps to fester allows methane production, a supposedly even worse “greenhouse gas”.
    Eventually we end up at the only truth: Doing anything or nothing will still see climate change. However, I find it utterly perplexing how anyone could determine that doing “nothing” can cause anything. Only an irrational individual would proclaim that if you hear a tree fall in the forest that you caused its fall.

  4. I did my part……fertilized the greenhouse this morning
    Only in some insane world would making nights a tiny bit warmer….and making growing seasons a tiny bit longer…..would kill us all

  5. from the article: “… a powerful greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide …”
    We have a new entry in the Sensitivity Scale! Each of the following has appeared in recent articles:
    ‘powerful’ greenhouse gas –> nitrous oxide
    ‘potent’ greenhouse gas –> methane
    ‘significant’ greenhouse gas –> water vapor
    ‘important’ greenhouse gas –> Carbon Dioxide
    The complete inability to quantify the purported ‘greenhouse gas’ property in any meaningful way is quite telling.

    • It is interesting that a transparency/absorption, scatter and re-emission cross section plot as a function of frequency, perhaps starting at 1 micron and going to ~12 microns isn’t presented or linked to when qualitatively discussing the green house properties of these gasses. I’d like to see them.

    • All gases with three or more atoms in the molecule, and some with only two are “powerful” and “potent” GHG:s as long as they only occurr in minuscule quantities in the atmosphere. When quantities reach ppm levels the effect per molecule declines dramatically.
      Even CO2 is a powerful GHG in small quantities.

      • ….. are “powerful” and “potent” GHG:s as long as they only occurr in minuscule quantities in the atmosphere. When quantities reach ppm levels the effect per molecule declines dramatically.

        “YUP”, shur nuff, …… the aforenoted dramatic decline of the GHG effect per additional increases in GHG molecules is determined by ……. The Law of Diminishing Returns, …… meaning “the more GHGs you add, ….. the less GHG effect you get in return”.
        It’s the same effect you get when you add extra sugar, salt or pepper to your food.
        The more sugar you add, ….. the less sweet it will taste. The more salt you add, ….. the less salty it will taste. And the more pepper you add, ….. the less peppery it will taste.
        Yours truly, Eritas

      • TTY, Can you please explain the mechanism? Why the dramatic decline? Do the molecules start to “compete” for the same wavelength radiation? I feel like it’s right intuitively, yet I can’t quite figure out why. Physics is not my strong suit, I’m a bio-type. Where did you come by your knowledge of evolution, if I may be so bold to ask?
        I’m guessing you mean by the 2-atom molecules that some gases indirectly affect GHG levels? Or are there those that behave as GHG?
        Wikipedia has a nice little account of the effects of CO – more diverse and complex than I would ever have guessed, had it occurred to me to consider it..
        “The surprising effect of this is that the global warming potential of CO is three times that of CO2” Hmm.

      • “Why the dramatic decline?”
        The gases absorb extremely strongly within very narrow wavelength bands and extremely weakly outside them. Therefore just a few molecules will block IR radiation within these bands, but it then takes a large number of molecules to broaden the bands significantly.

    • Thomas,
      “The complete inability to quantify the purported ‘greenhouse gas’ property in any meaningful way is quite telling.”
      It’s not telling at all. Just because you want to know something isn’t reason to put it in a paper. Methane is potent or powerful or whatever, but it is also transient in the atmosphere because is it broken down into CO2. Going into a description of all this is not appropriate, a waste of space, since it is understood that those in the field know such things.

    • Ah, yes, good old Delingpole, who can always be relied on to tell people what to think, regardless of veracity. The man is an absolute menace to the truth. I have tracked down claim after claim of his in the literature and links he gives, and know from long experience that his ignorance and prejudice are boundless. He is paid to maintain an agenda, and he will distort and lie to do it. I was banned from BB right about the time Bannon got back.
      “This is good news for skeptics. It confirms what we’ve been saying all along: global warming is really just another attempted leftist takeover by the watermelons – green on the outside, red on the inside.”
      Yep, that’s exactly what the poll shows. Obvious, isn’t it?

  6. I charted the max Number of authors for each year in the bibliography. Clearly a hockey stick. For 3 decades flat at about 2 then 201x arrives and the blade turns sharply up. 12, 15, 16, 36 authors.
    This stuff is so hard it took 36 authors.

  7. “Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas and the main driver of stratospheric ozone depletion.”
    And for years I have been told that it was the chlorine in the refrigerant in my heat pump and car A/C etc. that was destroying the Ozone layer. The resources wasted as the result of that unproven idea is well past disgusting but every time a new refrigerant is mandated refrigerant manufactures make a lot of money. Now they are saying that it is nitrous oxide from draining bogs that is the main problem. I wonder how DuPont etc. will be able to make money off of this notion. I think I will go out in the sun without sun screen as I have done for over 70 years. I know the “consensus” is that I will die of skin cancer but I have yet to see a really good study on that theory any more than the “consensus” on so many other theories that are bouncing around unproven but unquestioned.

  8. “Drained fertile peatlands”
    Actually peatlands are usually not fertile, and so require considerable amounts of fertilizer, including nitrogen. Denitrification of this is probably the main source of nitrous oxide, since peat itself is nitrogen-poor. On the other hand drained peatlands are an excellent CO2 source since drained peat quite rapidly oxidizes to CO2 plus water. It is normal to lose 1-2 centimeters of soil per year according to farmers.

  9. At the rate we’re going with greenhouse gas focus on publishing and messaging, the Pacific will become one giant, floating garbage dump and the Amazon will be paved over.

  10. Nitrous oxide will soon be called “nitrogen pollution”. I’m surprised they haven’t called methane “hydrogen pollution” – oh wait, that would be water. People could be called “humanoid pollution”. If you think about it, everything is “pollution” now.

  11. Chapter 8, page 731 of the IPCC’s AR5 Report tells us that Nitrous Oxide has 264 times the heat trapping potential of CO2.
    Note, The IPCC does not say how much N20 will run-up global temperatures. That is left for the reader to figure out.

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