Claim: New research: nitrous oxide emissions 300 times more powerful than CO₂ are jeopardising Earth’s future

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Pep Canadell, CSIRO; Eric Davidson, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Glen Peters, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Hanqin Tian, Auburn University; Michael Prather, University of California, Irvine; Paul Krummel, CSIRO; Rob Jackson, Stanford University; Rona Thompson, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, and Wilfried Winiwarter, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Nitrous oxide from agriculture and other sources is accumulating in the atmosphere so quickly it puts Earth on track for a dangerous 3℃ warming this century, our new research has found.

Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops in the form of synthetic fertiliser. The same amount again is put onto pastures and crops in manure from livestock.

This colossal amount of nitrogen makes crops and pastures grow more abundantly. But it also releases nitrous oxide (N₂O), a greenhouse gas.

Agriculture is the main cause of the increasing concentrations, and is likely to remain so this century. N₂O emissions from agriculture and industry can be reduced, and we must take urgent action if we hope to stabilise Earth’s climate.

2000 years of atmospheric nitrous oxide concentrations. Observations taken from ice cores and atmosphere. Source: BoM/CSIRO/AAD.

Where does nitrous oxide come from?

We found that N₂O emissions from natural sources, such as soils and oceans, have not changed much in recent decades. But emissions from human sources have increased rapidly.

Atmospheric concentrations of N₂O reached 331 parts per billion in 2018, 22% above levels around the year 1750, before the industrial era began.

Agriculture caused almost 70% of global N₂O emissions in the decade to 2016. The emissions are created through microbial processes in soils. The use of nitrogen in synthetic fertilisers and manure is a key driver of this process.

Other human sources of N₂O include the chemical industry, waste water and the burning of fossil fuels.


Read more: Intensive farming is eating up the Australian continent – but there’s another way


N₂O is destroyed in the upper atmosphere, primarily by solar radiation. But humans are emitting N₂O faster than it’s being destroyed, so it’s accumulating in the atmosphere.

N₂O both depletes the ozone layer and contributes to global warming.

As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and stays in the atmosphere for an average 116 years. It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.

N₂O depletes the ozone layer when it interacts with ozone gas in the stratosphere. Other ozone-depleting substances, such as chemicals containing chlorine and bromine, have been banned under the United Nations Montreal Protocol. N₂O is not banned under the protocol, although the Paris Agreement seeks to reduce its concentrations.

A farmer emptying fertiliser into machinery
Reducing fertiliser use on farms is critical to reducing N₂O emissions. Shutterstock

What we found

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has developed scenarios for the future, outlining the different pathways the world could take on emission reduction by 2100. Our research found N₂O concentrations have begun to exceed the levels predicted across all scenarios.

The current concentrations are in line with a global average temperature increase of well above 3℃ this century.

We found that global human-caused N₂O emissions have grown by 30% over the past three decades. Emissions from agriculture mostly came from synthetic nitrogen fertiliser used in East Asia, Europe, South Asia and North America. Emissions from Africa and South America are dominated by emissions from livestock manure.

In terms of emissions growth, the highest contributions come from emerging economies – particularly Brazil, China, and India – where crop production and livestock numbers have increased rapidly in recent decades.

N₂O emissions from Australia have been stable over the past decade. Increase in emissions from agriculture and waste have been offset by a decline in emissions from industry and fossil fuels.

Regional changes in N₂O emissions from human activities, from 1980 to 2016, in million tons of nitrogen per year. Data from: Tian et al. 2020, Nature. Source: Global Carbon Project & International Nitrogen Initiative.

What to do?

N₂O must be part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and there is already work being done. Since the late 1990s, for example, efforts to reduce emissions from the chemicals industry have been successful, particularly in the production of nylon, in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Reducing emissions from agriculture is more difficult – food production must be maintained and there is no simple alternative to nitrogen fertilisers. But some options do exist.


Read more: Emissions of methane – a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide – are rising dangerously


In Europe over the past two decades, N₂O emissions have fallen as agricultural productivity increased. This was largely achieved through government policies to reduce pollution in waterways and drinking water, which encouraged more efficient fertiliser use.

Other ways to reduce N₂O emissions from agriculture include:

  • better management of animal manure
  • applying fertiliser in a way that better matches the needs of growing plants
  • alternating crops to include those that produce their own nitrogen, such as legumes, to reduce the need for fertiliser
  • enhanced efficiency fertilisers that lower N₂O production.
Global nitrous oxide budget 2007-16. Adopted from Tian et al. 2020. Nature. Source: Global Carbon Project & International Nitrogen Initiative.

Getting to net-zero emissions

Stopping the overuse of nitrogen fertilisers is not just good for the climate. It can also reduce water pollution and increase farm profitability.

Even with the right agricultural policies and actions, synthetic and manure fertilisers will be needed. To bring the sector to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, as needed to stabilise the climate, new technologies will be required.


Read more: Earth may temporarily pass dangerous 1.5℃ warming limit by 2024, major new report says


Pep Canadell, Chief research scientist, Climate Science Centre, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; and Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIRO; Eric Davidson, Director, Appalachian Laboratory and Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore; Glen Peters, Research Director, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo; Hanqin Tian, Director, International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, Auburn University; Michael Prather, Distinguished Professor of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine; Paul Krummel, Research Group Leader, CSIRO; Rob Jackson, Professor, Department of Earth System Science, and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, Stanford University; Rona Thompson, Senior scientist, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, and Wilfried Winiwarter, , International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

156 thoughts on “Claim: New research: nitrous oxide emissions 300 times more powerful than CO₂ are jeopardising Earth’s future

  1. Nitrous oxide jeopardizes earths future. This is no laughing matter. But when I saw the concentration scale in the figure NO2 vs years, I couldn’t stop laughing. The change is 265 to 330 parts per Billion. Rounding that off to parts per million gives 0.3 to 0.3 parts per million. Beam me up, Scotty, there’s too much NO2 on this planet.

    • N2O and NO2 are two different chemicals. The subject in this case is N2O.
      Each has different chemical properties, concentrations, and roles withing the global biogeochemical Nitrogen cycle.

      • Guess you didn’t read very much before replying did you??

        “Reducing emissions from agriculture is more difficult – food production must be maintained and there is no simple alternative to nitrogen fertilisers. But some options do exist.”

        Its actually very reasonable, they talk about showing farmers how to improve efficiency of use.

        And yes Charles I was wondering if they were going to mention the dominant greenhouse gas as well….

        • Its actually very reasonable?

          Actually no.

          They ‘talk’ about showing farmers how to improve efficiency, because clearly farmers are dim witted slow talking people with tractor fetishes who know nothing about their job and live in pig headed ignorance about anything that could possibly improve their yield while reducing their costs.

          Is stage two of this master plan to seek out some elderly relatives in the poultry business and correct their errors in lip/egg interaction?

          Remember that ANYTHING can sound reasonable if you don’t actually have to do it yourself or explain in detail the actual act. Everything is in the wording. Back in the day there was a plan by the city council to block a major east/west second of road in the centre of the city to make the north and south halves of the central square into a mega area where events could be held. People countered “what about the traffic?” to which they commissioned surveys to support their plan.

          The actual survey question was “would you accept an increase of 2mins in your daily drive to work?” to which most people would think “That sounds reasonable. I take 40mins. 2 on top of 40 isn’t that bad, I guess”.

          Then you realise that what they are saying is that closing this short section of road (about 150m I guess) would add 2mins as you are forced to loop around. So they are not adding 2mins to a 40min trip from your home to workplace, they are adding minutes to a 150m drive.

          But… it sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Only 2 extra minutes…

          Then again, I guess we should be grateful your proposal is only reasonable and not modest.

      • Agreed. Quote: “It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.” They forgot water again, which is the most important greenhouse gas and essential for life, as is CO2. N2O is the fourth most important greenhouse gas, and not really very important.

        • I recently saw a comment from Prof. Ian Clark (Ottawa, Canada). Using carbon isotope methodology, he estimated the CO2 cycle time to be around 4 years! Not thousands of years…
          “Lasts up to”: what does that mean, when CO2 is constantly being consumed and new CO2 is being produced?

    • Ron: But it’s 300 times more powerful than CO2, so if it doubles it will result in 1.5 x 300 = 450 to 4.5 x 300 =1350 degrees C of warming (based on CO2 ECS of 1.5 to 4.5 C per doubling). So if N2O gets to 6 ppb we’re doomed.

    • Better yet. No gas at any concentration when at -17 deg C can warm Earth’s surface at 15 deg C. It’s thermodynamically for a cold gas to emit any radiation to a warmer surface that will warm that surface. The radiation will be reflected as the energy levels equivalent to -17 deg C are already full.

      So, for all intents and purposes there is not such thing as a greenhouse gas.

    • If the increase in N2O is 65ppb this is 0.065ppm
      At 300 times the effectiveness of CO2 this gives 0.065 *300 =19.5ppm equivalent of CO2.
      I hope I have got the calculation right!
      At present the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 410ppm, with the level in the average room 1000ppm.

      If most of the increase is attributed to change in farming methods, it should be remembered that the world population is forecast to rise to 10bn, .
      Farmers don’t like spending money, so any input has to be justified in improved output and profit, otherwise why bother with farming and just hunker down and produce food for oneself and family.
      The proposed changes to farming practice are already being carried out by farmers in Europe as is stated in the article.
      As for achieving net zero N2O, we will have to get rid of all the pesky manure producing animals from Africa and the rest of the world. And do termites produce N2O in the same way as they are reported to produce vast quantities of CO2?

  2. They can’t make a coherent case for CO2, so they push it on to N2O which returns less than 2 W/m^2 to the surface. In other words, of the 150 W per W/m^2 of surface emissions above and beyond the 240 W/m^2 of solar forcing, less than 1% is offset by N2O re-emissions while about 20% is offset from co2 re-emissions and most of the rest is offset from energy returned to the surface by water vapor and clouds.

    • The whole CO2 = global warming issue is simply a political construct with bought and paid for political ‘scientists’.

    • We must stop all food production — zero food, not zero carbon. That will end all worries about climate change. I see another hockey stick here!
      Ban whipped cream cans immediately. That should give us 10 more years.

    • I’m not sure I get the whole nitrous oxide thing. It has four very narrow IR absorption peaks at 4, 7.7, 7.8, and 17 microns. (https://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C10024972&Type=IR-SPEC&Index=1#IR-SPEC)

      There isn’t enough energy, either incident from the Sun or radiated from the Earth, to make a whit of difference in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. Especially at the laughably (pun intended) puny concentration they’re talking about.

      • CO2, the demon of all greenhouse gases has only three IR bands, equivalent to 800, 400, and -80 deg C. So, at atmospheric temperature of -17 deg C in the upper tropical troposphere (which is supposed to be the source of global warming from climate science) can only use the -80 deg C band, which means that CO2’s main function is to cool the planet as any IR radiated will be reflected from the surface and then lost to space. That is what CO2 and water vapor do all night long, being radiative gases in the real world, not the mythological world of greenhouse gases. Thermodynamic physicists are just no giving up on trying to make CO2 warm anything and admitting that it is the world’s best coolant/refrigerant.

        • Charles Higley October 12, 2020 at 9:34 pm
          CO2, the demon of all greenhouse gases has only three IR bands, equivalent to 800, 400, and -80 deg C.

          The usual nonsense, there is no such thing as the temperature equivalent of the IR bands. The idea that the 15 micron band because it will be reflected from the Earth is garbage, its absorption is typically over 90%

  3. Alarmist alert! New bogeyman! This one fits in perfectly for reducing population. If you can’t starve and freeze people to death by removing their energy source the most logical and easiest method is limit their food.

  4. With fertilizer emissions, animal methane emissions, deforestation, and emissions from tilling the soil, I think farming should be banned. (Sarc)

    • I think humans should be banned. Can we just get rid of these f-wits first …..

      …… and then pop the champage corks.

      • The authors of the above research article are the reason William F. Buckley wrote in the magazine Esquire in 1961:
        ““I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the telephone directory,” he said, “than by the Harvard University faculty.”

        Universities even in 1961 we being taken over by the Intellectual Idiot class. Mr. Buckley realized these “academic intellectuals” thought too highly of themselves and their willingness to dictate with the police powers of the State their beliefs on everyone else.

        • The political science prof at the college I attended a bit after that (1967 IIRC) ran for a seat on the city council and actually got elected. Probably luckily, he resigned a few months afterwards. He couldn’t be bothered to show up for meetings.

  5. “It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.”

    Tsk! And here’s me thinking that the most important greenhouse gas was water vapour. I wonder what else I might have been wrong about all these years!

    • Ozone also has a larger GHG influence than either CH4 of N2O and of course in this context, ‘most important’ is a weasle phrase given how unimportant N2O actually is to the surface temperature.

    • … CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) …

      Please, I thought most calculations assumed around 7 years. But, this may refer to white CO2 from farming and heating. /SARC

      When I read the 1000 year flop, I had to assume the rest was without any trace of proportionate sound evaluation.

      This is sad, because if there is a serious issue, then let’s have a sound scientific report with sensible human readable conclusion, which we then can evaluate and see what we eventually can do to minimize the effect.
      Creating a report so propagandistic as this one is not helpful to society, and is only helpful to special interests.

    • Indeed you quoted exactly what they wrote”
      “As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and stays in the atmosphere for an average 116 years. It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.”

      Now what is the first most important before CO2 and methane? They don’t know. Cannot name water!

  6. Male Bovine Excrement!

    The next claim will be that O2 is 20,000 times more potent than CO2 as a green house gas and we need to reduce it to stop global climate change. With, the side benefit that wildfires will no longer be an issue, of course.

    Max P

    • Well ironically N2 and O2 are responsible for most of the thermal enhancement of the surface from the atmosphere, that is if you believe in the kinetic theory of gases.

  7. From 270 to 340 ppb is an increase by 20%. 300ppb is 0.3 ppm, a factor 1000 less than CO2. It will have a long way to go before the climate takes any notice.

    • You got that right. It’s an increase of 0.00003% absolute. Besides, farmers don’t want to use any more fertilizer than is needed.

      • Spot on. That is why some farmers pay to have drone pilots, with tailored cameras, to fly over their crops and create orthographic maps showing which areas need more or less fertilizer.

  8. Looks like the Globalists at the UN IPCC are starting to realise that , with the overwhelming proof that CO2 is not to blame for Global Warming , they need another story to keep their scam going .

    So the new frightener is Nitrous Oxides .
    In the UK air qualities are monitored , & over the last 50 years the levels of Nitrous Oxides in the air have fallen by 74 % .
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/emissions-of-air-pollutants/annual-emissions-of-nitrogen-oxides-in-the-uk-1970-2018

    But no doubt they will make up a whole new load of lies to try to keep the farce alive .

    • “But no doubt they will make up a whole new load of lies to try to keep the farce alive”

      Because ‘ Green Lies Matter’

    • So the answer to this crisis is, like many others, to keep people in India and Africa from using technologies that would increase food production, heat their homes and cook their food. Nice!

    • IRW: “…proof that CO2 is not to blame for Global Warming , they need another story to keep their scam going…” Different scam focal point this time. This time it’s to reduce population and the last one was to cripple Capitalism.

  9. Let me know when the directive is to burn (or compost) those food stamps from big brother. We have always been at war with NOx.

  10. I saw this years ago with the creation of “carbon pollution” & predicted the next “pollutant” would be Nitrogen. Have these “looney toons” ever taken organic chemistry? I doubt it!

  11. This won’t go over well in the head long rush to stampede the public into carbon taxes. Focus, focus said the climate consultants and media teams. But then libs are always working on the phased-in BS approach as opposed to fact checking anything.

  12. I’ll argue better farming practices by every farmer will benefit us all (some are doing the right things). Runoff into streams, lakes and estuaries cause algae blooms which are not good for just about anyone or anything. Even the algae that bloom are killing themselves. One worst case is Lake Okeechobee which is choking with about everything bad and a culmination of poor planning for a century.

    That said, I guess since CO2 isn’t working out, they all need something even worse to keep up the scam. Since it occurs in such small numbers it isn’t hard to get a large percentage increase on just a couple of molecules per billion.

  13. “It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.“

    What about water vapor importance as greenhouse gas? To truly understand climate change we must concentrate on the complexity of the water cycle rather than it being a forcing factor for CO2 and N2O. Climate models, the tail wagging the dog when the most important greenhouse gasses cannot be listed properly.

    • “CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere)”

      I was under the impression that the CO2 GHG factor was based on a lifetime of 100 years, not thousands of years. And I thought the science was settled.

  14. A standard hysteric technique is to post a scary graph and hope no one looks at the units. Water is present at parts per hundred, CO2 at parts per million, nitrous oxide at parts per billion. If you put them all on one graph with the units at parts per hundred the hysterics would be exposed.

    And if they are going to reference the Antarctic ice core they should include the fact that temperature change precedes CO2 change. I think we can safely assume the same will be true for nitrous oxide.

  15. N2O is part of the global biogeochemical Nitrogen cycle.
    At least try to understand the basic cycle to place N2O changes within that large framework.
    Saying that N2O “accumulates” anywhere is simply naive.
    A paper showing some of the basics is at
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412885/

    The Nitrogen cycle has been evolving on Earth for a long time, just like life itself.

  16. Atmospheric N2O 0.00003% run for the hills, we are all going to die. When it cooled from 1945 they said Co2 would cause another ice age that would disrupt the food chain and make weather worse. Whe it began warming from 1970 the same judicious idiots said Co2 would cause catastrophic global warming that would disrupt the food chain. Now that we grow enough food for ten billion and there has been no CAGW its intensive farming – efficient advanced farming using gm seeds fuelled by fossil fuels and man made tractors – its the fertiliser that will cause CAGW that Co2 did not.

    Having read the study apparently the figure we need to be concerned about is an annual rise of 1.4% of N2O.

  17. A new trace gas correlation with human activity. If we could make the Earth uninhabitable by humans I suspect the problem would go away.

    When will we understand just how little effect humanity has on the natural cycles of mother nature.

  18. Somehow I got to this page: https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-shared-socioeconomic-pathways-explore-future-climate-change which explains how they developed the SPP mechanism, which seenms to have added another layer of BS on top of the already faulty models.

    And guess what, it’s worse than we thought! No mention made of how far these things diverge from reality, but they look way off. Way too many relationships, variables and fanciful expectations. They will need a lot more equipment, computing horsepower and just plain money to shove this thing down the public’s throat.

  19. Ollie: ” Well if it isn’t one thing… it’s another”
    Stanley: “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.”

  20. From the article: “As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO₂) …” OK then, still not a detectable difference from zero, as I see it. Next.

  21. 0.3 ppm! I’m all for making applications of fertilizer more efficient, but this “worry” is a fictitious problem. They even admit it by saying it’s the third biggest GHG and that’s after excluding water vapor which is the overwhelming GHG. They have over estimated warming by 300% and this includes contributions from all sources – WVp, CO2, CH4, and natural variability. I dispute the longevity of the gas in the atmosphere since it is quite soluble in water (think rain) but let’s let them have it.

    This is the climate wroughters’ answer to the bumper crops and the Great Greening which causes so much demagogue heartburn, giving as it does an enormous positive value to ‘carbon’ emissions.

  22. Well, this does explain why all those various species of ancient elephant relatives, such as elephas and mammoth and mastodon ( among others) all died out. Too much giant four-legger poo contributed so much nitrous this & that to the atmosphere that all those antiques just never had a chance. Mastodons, especially – poor things were doomed by their own defecatory byproducts. Sad.

    • Dino and his family also made too much poo and was a household pet in the Stone’s families. Eventually we are now left with only the bones and some great documentaries.
      We know from these documentaries that the people back then all drove Green cars, thus no CO2. Therefore we can conclude it was the N2O from the household Dino families’ poo that made Earth uninhabitable over 50 million years ago.
      Now Earth had 50 million years to recover by reduced GHG concentration. The Dino families never rose again, but the household cow made it to great number and is now threatening to poo themselves and the new generation Stone families in oblivion again.

      This is called the 50 million year cycle. I would like to be the lead author in a UN finance study to investigate the inner workings of this 50 million year cycle.
      The estimated budget will be US $50 million annually and dispensation to use private jet for meetings.

      I have not yet made a feasibility study, as this tends to be of no value to the UN and could turn out negatively for the project.

  23. After the CO2 buffoonery, the water vapor made the front page of the climate farce, a few years ago and then came the CH4 and now it’s the turn of the N2O to take the lead of this tomfoolery …

    The climate clown show never ends.

  24. “…and we must take urgent action if we hope to stabilise [sic] Earth’s climate.”

    When has the Earth’s climate ever been stable?

  25. This just more elaborate hocus-pocus voodoo magic claims about how humanity must to turn over all control of our energy and food to those who claim to know how to save us from our folly and they’ll fix the weather. They wrap in science sounding junk claims about how producing food with modern fertilizers is going to lead to humanity’s demise. Only our claimed “betters” know how to appease the angry climate gods in this pagan climate religion, and they demands our sacrifices be paid to them. Like Hillary, most of this kind sees 95% of humanity as Deplorables to be starved and put to their gas chambers when we get too numerous.

    It’s quite clear humanity’s demise in the form of pan-genocide would be the result of following the directives to stop using mass produced nitrogen fertilizers. It would be a 21st Century result that would make Stalin’s kulak pogrom-induced starvation of 10’s of millions in the 1920’s-1930’s look like a warm-up session for population control.

    This is truly frightening stuff if these humanity-hating, power hungry elitists are allowed near the levers of political power. Give them power like was given Stalin, Mao, Castro, the Nork’s Kim family, and Hugo Chavez to name a few, and the results will be the same on Western countries they control.

    They claim to be our “betters” as all despotic authoritarians have claimed through history. It was only the Enlightenment that brought about freeing the human condition from despotism that produced the scientific and industrial revolution that brought humanity out of the short, harsh, brutish life the vast majority of humanity endured since civilizations became organized.

  26. This just more elaborate hocus-pocus voodoo magic claims about how humanity must to turn over all control of our energy and food to those who claim to know how to save us from our folly and they’ll fix the weather. They wrap in science sounding junk claims about how producing food with modern fertilizers is going to lead to humanity’s demise. Only our claimed “betters” know how to appease the angry climate gods in this pagan climate religion, and they demands our sacrifices be paid to them. Most of this kind of intellectuals are elitists who see 95% of humanity as Deplorables to be starved and put to their gas chambers when we get too numerous.

    It’s quite clear humanity’s demise in the form of pan-genocide would be the result of following the directives to stop using mass produced nitrogen fertilizers. It would be a 21st Century result that would make Stalin’s kulak pogrom-induced starvation of 10’s of millions in the 1920’s-1930’s look like a warm-up session for population control.

    This is truly frightening stuff if these humanity-hating, power hungry elitists are allowed near the levers of political power. Give them power like was given Stalin, Mao, Castro, the Nork’s Kim family, and Hugo Chavez to name a few, and the results will be the same on Western countries they control.

    They claim to be our “betters” as all despotic authoritarians have claimed through history. It was only the Enlightenment that brought about freeing the human condition from despotism that produced the scientific and industrial revolution that brought humanity out of the short, harsh, brutish life the vast majority of humanity endured since civilizations became organized.

  27. From the graph accompanying this article, it appears that (according to Antarctic ice samples), N2O levels started increasing around the year 1850 (give or take a few decades). Were farmers in China and India (which the article claims are the major culprits) using a lot of nitrogen fertilizers back then? This was before the advent of cars, which also contribute to nitrogen oxide emissions. Or was this a natural effect of some other natural change, such as emerging from the Little Ice Age?

    The article claims that N2O has 300 times the warming potential of CO2, presumably on a per-mole basis. If N2O concentrations increased from about 270 ppb pre-1850 to about 330 ppb now, the 60-ppb increase in N2O over 150-plus years would be equivalent to an increase of about 0.06 * 300 = 18 ppm CO2, which has occurred over the last 10 years. This means that on a per-year basis, the increase in N2O would have about 10 times less warming effect than the increase in CO2.

    The article also fails to mention what wavelengths of light are absorbed by N2O, either in the infrared or visible or ultraviolet spectrum. It is quite possible that some of the wavelengths that are absorbed by N2O are also absorbed by water vapor, which would “mask” those wavelengths from any absorption effect by N2O.

    It is also well-known that other nitrogen oxides, particularly NO and NO2, can react with volatile organic compounds and atmospheric oxygen in the presence of sunlight to produce tropospheric ozone, which has led EPA (and other environmental regulators worldwide) to limit emissions of NO and NO2 since the 1970’s.
    Ozone is a strong absorber of ultraviolet rays, which is beneficial in the upper atmosphere but harmful in the lower atmosphere. Have the authors of this article considered the overall heat balance, not only of any radiation absorbed by N2O but also of any products of its reactions in the atmosphere?

    • Steve Z; I had similar thoughts about the absorption aspect when I read:
      “Nitrous oxide is given off by the overuse of artificial fertilisers, and by organic sources such as animal manure, and has a heating effect 300 times that of carbon dioxide.”
      That had my sceptometer nudging over into the red. I strongly suspect that the measurements which gave this result were carried out in dry, laboratory conditions and probably without other GHGs present. The same thing gets repeated ad nauseam about methane.
      Out of curiosity I looked at the absorption spectra for N2O alongside other GHGs. It has two main absorption spikes. One coincides almost exactly with that of methane. The other has a significant overlap with CO2 and with water vapour.
      Methane concentrations are about 6 times higher than N2O; CO2 is about 1000 times higher and water vapour is a few million times higher.
      So, in the real world, the warming effect of N2O is going to be half the cube root of….very little.
      A while back someone came up with a good analogy of coverings on a bed. Water vapour is a top quality, arctic-rated duvet; CO2 is a thin blanket: CH4 is a light sheet; N2O is a tissue.

    • You have to remember that The Conversation is for researchers to put their work in the public eye. It is therefore supposed to be part educational and part PR/marketing. I h a t e it and stopped reading it when I realised that as a researcher you can just about make any old assertion you want without having to back it up with at least a citation.
      I love this blog because all the people who know more atmospheric physics than I do fill in the gaps in The Con’s so called “Science”

  28. This just more elaborate hocus-pocus voodoo magic claims about how humanity must to turn over all control of our energy and food to those who claim to know how to save us from our folly and they’ll fix the weather. They wrap their claims in science sounding junk about how producing food with modern fertilizers is going to lead to humanity’s demise. Only our claimed “betters” know how to appease the angry climate gods in this pagan climate religion, and they demands our sacrifices be paid to them. Most of this kind of intellectuals are elitists who see 95% of humanity as Deplorables to be starved and put to their gas chambers when we get too numerous.

    • It’s quite clear humanity’s demise in the form of pan-genocide would be the result of following the directives to stop using mass produced nitrogen fertilizers. It would be a 21st Century result that would make Stalin’s kulak pogrom-induced starvation of 10’s of millions in the 1920’s-1930’s look like a warm-up session for population control.

      This is truly frightening stuff if these humanity-hating, power hungry elitists are allowed near the levers of political power. Give them power like was given Stalin, Mao, Castro, the Nork’s Kim family, and Hugo Chavez to name a few, and the results will be the same on Western countries they control.

      They claim to be our “betters” as all despotic authoritarians have claimed through history. It was only the Enlightenment that brought about freeing the human condition from despotism that produced the scientific and industrial revolution that brought humanity out of the short, harsh, brutish life the vast majority of humanity endured since civilizations became organized.

      (note: I split this post up, because some kind of hosting filter is blocking certain phrases from being used in the comments.)

    • It’s quite clear humanity’s demise in the form of mass starvation would be the result of following the directives to stop using mass produced nitrogen fertilizers. It would be a 21st Century result that would make Stalin’s kulak pogrom-induced starvation of 10’s of millions in the 1920’s-1930’s look like a warm-up session for population control.

      This is truly frightening stuff if these humanity-hating, power hungry elitists are allowed near the levers of political power. Give them power like was given Stalin, Mao, Castro, the Nork’s Kim family, and Hugo Chavez to name a few, and the results will be the same on Western countries they control.

      They claim to be our “betters” as all despotic authoritarians have claimed through history. It was only the Enlightenment that brought about freeing the human condition from despotism and the rule of monarchs that produced the scientific and industrial revolution that brought humanity out of the short, harsh, brutish life the vast majority of humanity endured since civilizations became organized.

      (note: I split up my comment to try and find out what phrase or sets of words is being blocked by the hosting site filters.)

  29. In the 50s , adults had a saying about Gov’t and taxes: “Someday they will try to tax the air we breathe”. And for over a decade they have been trting to do just that.
    Earth is 70+% covered by water. WaterVapor’s greenhouse effect comprises 95+ % of all greenhouse gas effects. Extrapolating alarmists’ alarm history, they will eventually get around to this one: We must reduce Earth’s water, else we will all die! And they will try to tax water.

    • And nitrogen makes up 70% of our atmosphere so when the nitrogen tax comes in, well, they will be taxing the air we breathe.

    • They are probably heavily sedated and laughing. This could be a good thing.

      From: https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/nitrous-oxide/
      Nitrous oxide – Alcohol and Drug Foundation
      adf.org.au › drug-facts › nitrous-oxide
      Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas that is commonly used for sedation and pain relief, but is also used by people to feel intoxicated or high.

    • No, many “intellectuals” actually believe that as their new pagan religion belief set, a cultural superstition promoted by the Agenda 21 crowd, now Agenda 2030 elitists in the UN, the EU, IMF, and even the Vatican. That’s why we must not let them have political power over us.

    • Steve, how can a molecule of anything absorb and emit 300 times as much energy as a CO2 molecule.
      There are only so many photons to go around, so where does the energy come from.
      It is time the question was asked.
      How do they calculate it?

    • What do the killer gasses N2O and CO2 have in common? Oxygen! So we should be waging war against oxygen. No?
      H2O also has oxygen. I think you’re on to something.

  30. Absolutely it is horse puckey. Farmers have mechanized, computerized, satellitized, and GPSized out the wazoo just to cut off a few pennies.

    Folks should know that N2O is not applied directly to fields! Anhydrous Ammonia is not cheap nor is the equipment to apply it. It’s running $400 $500 per ton.

    Here is an article about nitrogen management. Farmers in the US are as interested in reducing their costs as anyone.

  31. This is like “Ozone the Sequel”, whatever the change might be it will be the end of us!

    The Ozone boys still get away with it, they told us in 1987 if we didn’t heal the ozone layer soon we will all die. Well the ozone layer has not healed, but I think we are still here!

    Still not seen the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse, just some unicorns on the horizon, a few flying pigs and a lot of red herrings swimming around.

  32. Many governments already apply NOx charges (another word for taxes) to anything they can, air transport and hybrid vehicles inclusive.

    Wait and see, EAM (Easy Money Matters).

  33. Nitrous oxide from agriculture and other sources is accumulating in the atmosphere so quickly it puts Earth on track for a dangerous 3℃ warming this century … As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide

    The Global Warming Potential (GWP)numbers that appear in all five IPPC reports is a classic example of how to “Baffle ’em with bullshit” The 300 multiplier says absolutely nothing about how much warming N20 is going to cause. It’s a dead certainty that doubling or by 2100 the amount of projected warming due to nitrous oxide would be a totally immeasurable next to nothing amount.

    This link:
    https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/hats/combined/N2O.html
    has graphs that show that N2O has increased about 35 ppb over the last 40 years. So over the next 80 years to 2100 maybe a little more than 70 ppb or 0.00007 ppm It follows that if CO2 increases by a similar amount from 400 ppm to 400.00007 ppm figure out how much that is going to increase the temperature, and then multiply that result by 300.

    That’s how the GWP numbers are defined. Here’s a link to the IPCC’s first Assessment Report
    https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/03/ipcc_far_wg_I_spm.pdf
    Where table 3 Page XXI of the Executive summary says:
    Global Warming Potentials The warming effect of an emission of 1kg of each gas relative to that of C02

    • If anyone finds a decent example or explanation paper of how climate scientists work out those GWP numbers, global warming potentials, please let me know. From excitation and re-emission by IR photons, their numbers seem to be based on “radiative efficiency” which is also quite elusive to find a description in published papers. Houghton just came up with tables of values for various gases for the IPCC, seemingly out of thin air. Yes many of the denizens of WUWT can calculate the energy of a photon and how many of them there are in a couple of watts of IR, and the reemission energy, and thus kinetic energy or temperature thereafter.

      • DMac, thanks for the reply.

        If anyone can show that Methane is on track for more than ~0.05°C of warming by 2100 it would be great if they put up a link. Nitrous Oxide is even less.

        Did you know that:
        An ant can lift 10, 20, or even 50 times its body weight?
        A Piper Cub can fly 86 times as far on a gallon of gas than a 747 Jumbo jet?
        Methane is 86 times more powerful than CO2 as trapping atmospheric heat?

        All three are factual but meaningless statistics for pretty much the same reason.

        My dear mother told me that President Roosevelt in one of his famous fireside chats said, ” So far this yeah we’ve produced twice as many B29 Bombers as we did last yeah.” She said my Dad “Blew a Fuse” because he knew only two were produced the year before.

        • I commented up thread.
          How can they “trap more heat” than CO2, what does the molecule do, store 300 photons instead of 1?
          The logic for these statements by passes me.
          How do they arrive at the values?

  34. Shocking to see how the man in the original post picture is not wearing any face covering. Just imagine how even a simple cloth mask might have kept some viral micron sized particles he’s shedding from his nostrils from getting into the hopper. I shudder thinking about the horror for field microbes that were exposed in the subsequent super-spreader event.

  35. Wolf! Wolf! Wolf, wolf, wolf!!! (Why is no one listening?) WOLF!!!!!!

    George Harrison’s “Taxman” song said everything you need to know about taxes.

  36. I just shudder any more at the ignorance of some of these scientists. All kinds of grasses and food grains fix nitrogen in the soil, especially when grown in tropical conditions. These include wheat, rye, maize, and rice. We should be pushing for more of this to be grown, especially in Africa. I also have to wonder just how much N2O was put in the atmosphere by the vast herds of American bison before they were killed off in the 1800’s. There were probably more of them on the American plains than there are cattle today. Did their manure not produce N2O?

  37. Is this from The Onion? Laughing Gas is going to destroy the world?

    What a Gas! What a Laugh! Chicken Little is getting quite elderly.

    “The Welfare of Humanity is always the Alibi of Tyrants!” Camus

  38. It will be easier soon to just list the gases we arent frightened of.

    Then off course we are scared of the weather and will hype up evey event, scared of bushfires but would rather make nebulous climate gestures than do real work managing forests, scared of blackouts but continue to destroy our grids with so called “renewables” and then of course there is the luggage handling system at Heathrow.

    I’m under the doona, someone tell me when its safe to come out.

  39. The stupidity of the above article . . . it burns!

    1) From the second paragraph above the article’s photo of farmer with large bag of fertilizer, referring to nitrous oxide: “It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO2 (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.” FALSE. The authors of that statement are obviously unaware that water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere. And the ranking of greenhouse gases by their direct contribution to Earth’s overall greenhouse effect is: water – CO2 – methane – ozone . . . nitrous oxide does not even merit mention in this regard (ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas ). And that quoted statement is made despite the number of different universities and institutes associated with the authors of such . . . go figure!

    2) The above article makes much ado about a N2O molecule having 300 times “the warming potential” of a CO2 molecule, but does not make mention that the ratio of N2O molecules to CO2 molecules in the troposphere was, as of 2018, about 331 ppb/408 ppm = 1/1230. Taking the relative concentrations into account, N2O’s atmospheric concentration had (as still has) an average greenhouse “warming potential” impact that was/is on the order of 25% that of CO2’s atmospheric concentration. “25%” is not quite as alarming as “300 times”, is it?

    3) A diagram of the global biogeochemical cycle of nitrous oxide (available at http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/mguidry/Unnamed_Site_2/Chapter%202/Chapter2C3.html ) shows that “natural soils” contribute about 7 million tons of nitrogen (MTN), as nitrous oxide, per year to the atmosphere, while “agricultural soils” contribute only about 4 MTN, as nitrous oxide, per year. To put that in perspective, “agricultural soils” currently contribute only about 22% of all surface sources of N2O entering the atmosphere each year.

    4) Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the climate sensitivity of N2O is noted on the same diagram referenced in (3) above to be +0.4 C/doubling N2O. Since the first graph in the above article indicates a current rise rate of N2O atmospheric concentration of about 65 ppb per century (the slope highlighted in red), it will take us about 500 years to double the amount of the atmospheric N2O concentration from today’s ~333 ppb to 666 ppb, at which time the change MIGHT have caused a 0.4 C rise in atmospheric temperature, ASSUMING the trend line stay constant and ASSUMING the stated climate sensitivity to N2O is correct. Really? . . . I should worry about nitrous oxide’s effects 500 years from now, given everything else currently going on (especially CAGW alarmist predictions that mankind has only 5-12 years left to save Earth from an irreversible CO2-caused runaway heat death)?

    Yes, it burns!

    • Gordon thanks for the informative four step correction.

      If these authors were scientifically minded, they would not have published such garbage.

  40. Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops in the form of synthetic fertiliser. The same amount again is put onto pastures and crops in manure from livestock.

    That’s 200 million tonnes of “nitrogen” they say is spread on the ground and that turns into annual emissions of about 2.25 million tons of Nitrogen. The atomic weight of N2O is 46.005, which makes 2.25 × 46.005 million tons, or about 103.5 million tons of N2O.

    These numbers show our emissions of N2O are truly trivial. Since we emit annually about 35 billion tons of CO2 and we haven’t yet measured the warming that causes (if any), then concerning N2O we can put the children back to bed with an easy mind.

    I you think it’s significant, you have a clear choice: continue to feed almost everybody (more than ever in our history) on half the land we once farmed, or stop restoring the land with thoroughly efficient, affordable fertiliser that comes to us out of the generous bounty of Mother Nature (i.e., made from crude oil) and let a lot of people starve to death.

    Remember that the amount of N2O in the air is about one third of one part per million. Wouldn’t warm a single herd of cows.

    The correct response to scaremongering?
    1. Learn the facts.
    2. Ignore the scaremongers.

  41. Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops in the form of synthetic fertiliser. The same amount again is put onto pastures and crops in manure from livestock.

    That’s 200 million tonnes of “nitrogen” they say is spread on the ground and that turns into annual emissions of about 2.25 million tons of Nitrogen. The atomic weight of N2O is 46.005, which makes 2.25 × 46.005 million tons, or about 103.5 million tons of N2O.

    These numbers show our emissions of N2O are truly trivial. Since we emit annually about 35 billion tons of CO2 and we haven’t yet measured the warming that causes (if any), then concerning N2O we can put the children back to bed with an easy mind.

    If you think it’s significant, you have a clear choice: continue to feed almost everybody (more than ever in our history) on half the land we once farmed, or stop restoring the land with thoroughly efficient, affordable fertiliser that comes to us out of the generous bounty of Mother Nature (i.e., made from crude oil) and let a lot of people starve to death.

    Remember that the amount of N2O in the air is about one third of one part per million. Wouldn’t warm a single herd of cows.

    The correct response to scaremongering?
    1. Learn the facts.
    2. Ignore the scaremongers.

  42. Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops in the form of synthetic fertiliser. The same amount again is put onto pastures and crops in manure from livestock.

    That’s 200 million tonnes of “nitrogen” they say is spread on the ground and that turns into annual emissions of about 2.25 million tons of Nitrogen. The atomic weight of N2O is 46.005, which makes 2.25 × 46.005 million tons, or about 103.5 million tons of N2O.

    These numbers show our emissions of N2O are truly trivial. Since we emit annually about 35 billion tons of CO2 and we haven’t yet measured the warming that causes (if any), then concerning N2O we can put the children back to bed with an easy mind.

    If you think it’s significant, you have a clear choice: continue to feed almost everybody (more than ever in our history) on half the land we once farmed, or stop restoring the land with thoroughly efficient, affordable fertiliser that comes to us out of the generous bounty of Mother Nature (i.e., made from crude oil) and let a lot of people starve to death.

    Remember that the amount of N2O in the air is about one third of one part per million. Wouldn’t warm a herd of cows.

    The correct response to scaremongering?
    1. Learn the facts.
    2. Ignore the scaremongers.

  43. One year ago Dutch farmers staged multiple tractor convoys causing hundreds of miles of roads to jam including in the capital city, The Hague. The farmers were protesting EU driven rules that alleged to “protect nature” from N2O and NH4 emissions from dairies and other farms. The new rules threatened to close half the dairies in the Netherlands.

    Other countries targeted by the EU for higher-than-permitted nitrogenous emissions are Austria, Croatia, Germany, Ireland, and Spain.

    Nitrogen alarmism is already impeding food production in Europe. Are mass famines on the horizon? If so, they wouldn’t be the first. Dozens of famines plagued Medieval Europe, arose due to 15th and 16th Century wars, the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-49), and and more recently Euro famines were associated with the rise of Communism in Russia and followed both World Wars.

    Now American academics wish to join the nitrogen alarmism bandwagon. They hunger for famines here.

  44. So…..I guess we need to choose between biofuels and food?
    Ok, choice made
    Now we can return vast tracts to the wild and stop killing orangutans

    Just one more strike agains renewable ruinables

    Right?

  45. Used the k word, sorry

    So…..I guess we need to choose between biofuels and food?
    Ok, choice made
    Now we can return vast tracts to the wild and stop ki!!ing orangutans

    Just one more strike against renewable ruinables, nobody seems to make this point
    Surely they use manure and other fertilizers on corn, grass and palms?

    Right?

  46. bwegher, my bad for laughing when I shold have been reading. However, the amounts reported in the atmosphere all over the world are so small, their actual content is in serious doubt. I spent a half-hour reading about spectrometers and sounding radiometers, etc, and came away thinking either they are not even close to analyzing the actual N2O content or there is so much in-fighting in the discipline it can’t be figured out. Still not at danger levels as far as I’m concerned.

  47. Just a quick comparison of the absorption spectra of water and N2O looks to me like the wavelengths that N2O could absorb in are already covered by water vapor. Since N2O has a concentration of 0.3 ppm and water has a concentration of 20,000 ppm, this looks like a non-issue to me. Does anyone have a more definitive answer?

  48. “Each year, more than 100 million tonnes of nitrogen are spread on crops…This colossal amount of nitrogen makes crops and pastures grow more abundantly. But it also releases nitrous oxide (N₂O), a greenhouse gas.”

    The mass of nitrogen in the atmosphere is about 3,900,000,000 million tonnes. So the atmosphere itself has 39 million times as much nitrogen as we spread on crops each year. And 2.56E-6 percent of the mass of the atmospheric nitrogen is “colossal”?

    This is certainly an article addressed at the numerically challenged.

  49. Let’s see, the left half of the graph was reconstructed from ice cores, and the red, right side was measured directly. The union of the two seems melded together in an almost “hockey stick” – like form. Where have I seen the combination of dissimilar measurement techniques like this before?

      • no one with a brain that functions

        this line[N₂O emissions from Australia have been stable over the past decade. Increase in emissions from agriculture and waste have been offset by a decline in emissions from industry and fossil fuels.]

        umm yeah cos we have sweet FA manufacturing left, and our fuel costs are sohigh we cant afford to drive much.
        covid been goood for dropping perol to around 1.14c a litre down from 1.40 ish though

  50. “As a greenhouse gas, N₂O has 300 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO₂) and stays in the atmosphere for an average 116 years. It’s the third most important greenhouse gas after CO₂ (which lasts up to thousands of years in the atmosphere) and methane.”
    —————————————
    That’s where I stopped reading. The residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 7 years, not thousands. I have no idea what the residence time of N2O is, but based on that ridiculous statement, I strongly doubt it’s anywhere near 116 years.

  51. All of you have missed the main point here.
    The IPCC claim that N2O is 300 times worse and CH4 is 28 times worse is based on the effect these gases might have in dry air. that is air totally devoid of water.
    That does not exist in our Atmosphere, which merely goes to show that these idiots live on another planet.

    Both methane and nitrous oxide absorb infrared in very narrow bands in the 7 to 8 micron range of infrared.
    Water also absorbs in the same region.
    Water ranges from 5000 to 40,000 ppm. Methane 1.8 ppm and N2O 0.3 ppm
    If there are on average 10000 water per methane then adding another methane is the same as having 10001 water.

    IE in the presence of water it is physically impossible for either methane or nitrous oxide to have any effect whatsoever.

    Furthermore, there is no radiation going to space in that 7-8 micron range, therefore all the radiation that can be absorbed , has been absorbed.
    In short the atmosphere is saturated with infra red absorbing greenhouse gases so that no increase in any of them has any significant effect.

    An increase in CO2 slightly broadens the absorption band so might cause some warming in the upper troposphere but that might be negated by the cooling effect of CO2 in stratosphere.
    Cheers

    • The question has to asked.
      How do they do so.
      What mechanism allows 1 molecule to hold 28 or 300 more photons of energy than CO2?
      Where do all the extra photons come from?

  52. The Earth has a thermostat and its name is tropical storms. They reject so much of the incoming insolation that the sea surface temperature cannot exceed an average of 30C in a longitudinal band or 32C locally apart from land locked seas such as the Adriatic:
    https://1drv.ms/b/s!Aq1iAj8Yo7jNg2wbbqUDIIo7aMf2
    Tropical storms require a TPW of 30mm to get atmospheric partitioning to create a level of free convection above ground level. That is not likely where the sea surface is land locked.

    If you missed it in the plot, take note of the red line at the bottom. That is the energy input from CO2 forcing for doubling applying MODTRAN with US Std Atmosphere. It is applied to the entire surface area not just the oceans that are rejecting the heat.

  53. I can’t wait until they start attacking water.

    Should be fun!

    This article is another example of idiots that don’t stay in their lane. I’ll bet none of them have ever even been to a farm other than a hobby farm with cute animals their children can pet.

  54. Not a scientific response; but this most definitely has the ring of the radical green human haters all over it. Reduce food supply, prevent people from heating (read kill all the poor people ) so the green elites can rule in peace.

  55. N2O is 300x more powerful than C02
    “Oh no, the sky is falling,” said Chicken Little
    “Oh no, the sky is falling,” said all the animals
    “Quick, in here, come into my den,” said Foxy Loxy, “you’ll be safe in my den.”

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