The greenhouse gas you don’t hear enough about

Nitrous oxide has a global warming potential 273 times higher than carbon dioxide, and it lasts in the atmosphere for a century. So what can we do about it?

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

Nitrous oxide, or N2O, is the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions behind carbon dioxide and methane. Also known as laughing gas, it’s long-lived like carbon dioxide and incredibly potent like methane. And it accounts for about 6% of global warming. 

So where does it come from? And what do we do about it?

In this episode, Shayle talks to Eric Davidson, professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and principal scientist at Spark Climate Solutions. Eric studies a surprising source of nitrous oxide: bacteria in the soil. Eric and Shayle talk about topics including: 

  • How the application of nitrogen fertilizer causes more emissions than the production of fertilizer itself.

  • The challenging economics of agriculture that cause farmers to over-apply fertilizer.

  • How precise and timely application of fertilizer could cut emissions.

  • New livestock feed additives that could replace the N2O-intensive crops in animal feed.

  • New crops that require less fertilizer.

Recommended resources:

  • Nature Climate Change: Improving the social cost of nitrous oxide

  • The Conversation: New research: Nitrous oxide emissions 300 times more powerful than CO₂ are jeopardising Earth’s future

  • Nature: A comprehensive quantification of global nitrous oxide sources and sinks

Come watch a live episode of The Carbon Copy! Canary Media and Post Script Media are hosting a live event at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Mass. on April 6. We’ll record a live episode of The Carbon Copy with some very special guests. Get your tickets today.

Catalyst is a co-production of Post Script Media and Canary Media.

Catalyst is supported by Antenna Group. For 25 years, Antenna has partnered with leading clean-economy innovators to build their brands and accelerate business growth. If you’re a startup, investor, enterprise or innovation ecosystem that’s creating positive change, Antenna is ready to power your impact. Visit antennagroup.com to learn more.

Catalyst is supported by EnergyHub. The company’s platform lets consumers turn their smart thermostats, EVs, batteries, water heaters and other products into virtual power plants that keep the grid stable and enable higher penetration of solar and wind power. And they are hiring! Learn more and see open roles at energyhub.com/catalyst.

Catalyst is brought to you by Sealed, the experts in home weatherization and electrification upgrades. Sealed is leading the way, with over a decade of experience being accountable to homeowners because they only get paid based on actual energy reductions. Visit Sealed.com/measuredsavings to learn more.