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India is World’s Second Largest Emitter of Nitrous Oxide

Context: India is the second largest global source of nitrous oxide (N2O), according to a global assessment published in the journal Earth System Science data.

Highlights of the Earth System Science Data for N2O Emissions

  • In 2020, nearly 11% of global man-made N2O emissions came from India, second only to China at 16%.
  • Fertilizer usage is the primary source of these emissions.
  • Atmospheric N2O Concentration in 2022:
    • The concentration of atmospheric N2O in 2022 was about 25% above pre-industrial levels.
    • In comparison, carbon dioxide levels were 417 parts per million in 2022.
  • Impact and Urgency:
    • Nitrous oxide remains in the atmosphere longer and is rising rapidly.
    • Scientists emphasise the need for urgent action to address N2O emissions.
  • Historical Emission Increase:
    • Human activities have increased N2O emissions by 40% (three million metric tonnes per year) over the past four decades.
    • Growth rates between 2020 and 2022 were higher than in any previous period since 1980.
  • Sources of Emissions:
    • Agricultural production using nitrogen fertilizers, ammonia, and animal manure contributed 74% of total anthropogenic N2O emissions in the last decade.
    • These emissions added about 0.1 degree Celsius to global warming.
  • Effective Radiative Forcing: N2O emissions account for 6.4% of the effective radiative forcing of greenhouse gases.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

  • Nitrous oxide (N₂O), also known as laughing gas, is a colourless, non-flammable gas with a slightly sweet odour and taste.
  • It is commonly used for sedation and pain relief, but is also used recreationally for its euphoric effects.

Uses of Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

  • Medical and Dental Applications:
    • Anaesthesia: N2O is commonly used as an anaesthetic in surgeries and dental procedures due to its analgesic and sedative effects. It is often mixed with oxygen to provide pain relief and relaxation without losing consciousness.
    • Pain Management: Used in emergency medicine for its quick onset of action to manage acute pain.
  • Industrial Uses:
    • Food Industry: Used as a propellant in whipped cream canisters and other aerosol food products. It helps to maintain the cream’s texture and consistency.
    • Manufacturing: Utilised in the production of semiconductor devices as an oxidising agent.
  • Automotive Industry: Known as “NOS” in the automotive world, N2O is used in engines to boost power output. When injected into the engine, it increases the amount of oxygen available during combustion, allowing more fuel to be burned and thus increasing horsepower.
  • Recreational Use: Sometimes used for its euphoric effects, often referred to as “laughing gas.” However, recreational use can be dangerous and is subject to legal restrictions in many places.
  • Aerospace Applications: Occasionally used as an oxidizer in rocket propulsion systems, especially in hybrid rockets, due to its ability to deliver a high-energy output.

How is nitrous oxide harmful to the environment?

  • Greenhouse effect: N2O is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential approximately 298 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.
    • It has a long atmospheric lifetime of about 114 years, making its impact on climate long-lasting.
    • It traps heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change.
  • Ozone depletion: N2O is a significant ozone-depleting substance. When it reaches the stratosphere, it breaks down and releases nitrogen oxides (NOx), which catalyse the destruction of ozone molecules, leading to the depletion of the ozone layer.
  • Soil and Water Pollution: Excessive use of nitrogen-based fertilizers leads to runoff and leaching, causing water pollution and contributing to the formation of harmful algal blooms and dead zones in aquatic systems.

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I, Sakshi Gupta, am a content writer to empower students aiming for UPSC, PSC, and other competitive exams. My objective is to provide clear, concise, and informative content that caters to your exam preparation needs. I strive to make my content not only informative but also engaging, keeping you motivated throughout your journey!

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