Nitrous Oxide and the Climate

Madison Milton, Guest Writer

Climate Change has been a topic circulating headlines for quite some time. Specifically a phenomenon termed Global Warming has been in the hot seat lately.

Global Warming is an aspect of climate change that encompasses the actual warming of the planet. The main cause of this warming is commonly referred to as the Greenhouse Effect.

Most of you have heard the story, but here’s how it works:

Sun radiation enters our atmosphere in the form of UV. This energy heats the planet and the atmosphere regulates the temperature so that life is possible. However, a build up of certain gases and compounds (commonly referred to as “Greenhouse Gases”) in the atmosphere can lead to the Infrared Heat Energy being trapped and radiating back towards the Earth. This causes the planets average temperature to rise.

The most advertised greenhouse gas is Carbon Dioxide; however, there are actually 5 major Greenhouse Gases: water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons, and nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide, the focus of this article, is a very potent greenhouse gas. Compared to Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide has 300 time the warming potential and can last up to 114 year in our atmosphere. Nitrous Oxide is formed naturally throughout the denitrification step of the nitrogen cycle, but anthropogenic sources have caused the Nitrous Oxide levels to rise at an unprecedented rate. The main source of excess nitrous oxide is synthetic fertilizers.

Synthetic fertilizers add only macronutrients to the soil (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium). When there are an excess of nitrates in the soil, they are converted to Nitrous Oxide through denitrification.

The best way to combat this issue is to use less synthetic fertilizers. Most of us Flower Moundians don’t necessarily need fertilizers for our lawns any way. However, if your HOA will not tolerate anything less than a picturesque lawn, there are other options. You can try starting your own compost, for example, which adds better nutrients to your soil.

I know that these issues seem too large for any one person to stop, but small actions such as composting or buying organic fertilizers can make a big difference. Our planet is changing, and the choices we make everyday have the power to help fight some of these changes.