Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a chemical compound, an oxide of nitrogen, and commonly known as laughing gas.  It also is one of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate breakdown.








Sources of nitrous oxides in the environment include agriculture, energy use, industrial processes and waste management.  In most areas, agriculture is the largest source, accounting for as much as three-quarters of all N2O emissions, primarily through the application of nitrogen fertilizer to agriculture soils. N2O emissions are also generated by consumption of energy, especially in passenger cars and light trucks, but also through burning coal in electric power plants. Two industrial sources of nitrous oxide emissions are production of adipic acid and production of nitric acid, a primary ingredient in fertilizers.  Finally, treatment of residential and commercial wastewater in waste management contributes N2O emissions.

Nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it also depletes the ozone layer, but it does have a shorter life span in the atmosphere.  It lasts for an average of 114 years, compared to carbon dioxide’s life span of hundreds of years, and methane’s span of 12 years.


Some further ideas to explore on Nitrous Oxide Emissions:

Since N2O has a shorter life span than CO2, but is more potent than CO2, determine whether it makes sense to focus more on eliminating N2O or on eliminating CO2.

Is there any relationship between environmental impacts from nitrous oxides and nitrogen dioxides?

Are there any common sources of nitrous oxides and nitrogen dioxides in the environment?



Sabrina Shankman, “What Is Nitrous Oxide and Why Is It a Climate Threat?” inside climate news (11 Sept 2019).

“Nitrous Oxide Emissions,” Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the U. S. (31 March 2011).

A Beginner’s Guide to NOx, NO and NO2 as Air Pollutants, aeroqual



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