Of course, there is a funny side to laughing gas. I’ve swallowed the contents of a helium balloon before to make my voice sound comical.
However , N2O when it comes to the environment is a very different story.
In the world’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions , the source of our food is coming under the spotlight.
Not without reason.
Agriculture accounts for up to 27% of human caused climate warming emissions.
These emissions are not from carbon dioxide , the usual culprit.
They come from another gas altogether – nitrus oxide (N20) commonly referred to as laughing gas.
This should not be a forgotten greenhouse gas.
Molecule for molecule , N20 is around 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide at heating the atmosphere.
And , just like CO2 ,it is long lived , spending over 100 years in the sky before disintegrating.
It also depletes the ozone layer.
Despite its important contribution to climate change , N20 emissions have largely been ignored in climate policies.
Heavy use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is the principal offender.
Before modern intensive farming came , farmers used compost and manure to encourage crop growth.
Nowadays, industry has created methods to produce massive amounts of ammonia based fertiliser.
Crop yields have been boosted, but at a huge cost to the environment. Because farmers apply such huge quantities, the plant roots can’t absorb all the fertiliser nutrients.
N20 greenhouse gas is then released.
In addition some of it runs off the fields and pollutes waterways.
A current example being El Mar Menor in Murcia. Very much in the news again lately because of 1000’s of fish being killed. Politicians bicker while the environment suffers.
Scientists are looking at ways to mitigate this problem.
The solution cannot come quick enough.
The clock is ticking.
If policymakers turn their attention to tackling nitrus oxide , there are benefits for all.The same measures that lower N20 levels also reduce air and water pollution as well as biodiversity losses.
These tangible benefits can be seen immediately.
Time to clean up our act.