Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have determined initial estimates for California’s nitrous oxide levels maybe have been incorrect. The levels may actually be 2.5 to 3 times higher than they initially thought.
The finding is not insignificant. This level estimates that N20 emissions account for close to 10% of California’s total greenhouse emissions, not the 3% first estimated. Scientists used the same methodology to determine levels of methane in California are 1.8 times greater than they first thought.
If the higher levels of methane and N20 are analyzed together, these gasses contributed up to 25% of California’s total emissions. This is nearly equal to emissions from fossil fuel CO2.
CO2 gets most of the media attention, but Nitrous oxide is very damaging greenhouse gas because it traps a greater amount of infrared radiation than either methane or carbon dioxide. The global warming potential of nitrous is 300 times more active than CO2. It is also up to 15 times more damaging than methane.
The majority of reduction efforts have revolved around CO2, but this may be the clarion call to address CO2, methane levels, and N2O levels with equal fervor.