By Cameron Chai
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has adopted four scenarios, termed as representative concentration pathways (RCPs), to reduce green house gases. One of the four scenarios is to reduce an important green house gas, nitrous oxide (N2O) in the environment.
Next to carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), N2O is highly responsible for climatic changes and absorbs more infrared radiation when compared to CO2 and CH4. Hence it is a more harmful gas. Nitrogen is required for food production and this aspect presents a difficulty in reducing this gas.
The major sources of N2O come from storage and usage of livestock manure and usage of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers on agricultural soils. Soil microorganisms break down the nitrogen present in the manure and fertilizers and convert it into N2O, which is released into the air.
As per the study conducted by Dr Eric A Davidson, The Woods Hole Research Center, Massachusetts, individual meat consumption in developed world must be brought down to 50% by 2050, and this will help cut down N2O emissions. In addition, agricultural and industrial N2O emissions must be reduced by 50% to meet the IPCC targets.
According to Dr Davidson, the N2O emissions can be cut down by managing the manure and fertilizer sources properly. Further, by reducing individual meat consumption, manure production and the demand for fertilizers can be reduced.
Dr Davidson conducted the study based on the data offered by Food and Agricultural Organization. As per the data, the worldwide population will be 8.9 billion in 2050 and 3130 kcal will be the required individual calorific intake per day. Additionally, the data states that the average meat intake of each individual will increase from 28 kg in 2002 to 37 kg per year in 2030 in the developing countries, and from 78 kg in 2002 to 89 kg per year in 2030 in the developed countries.
The study has been published in the journal, Environmental Research Letters, an Institute of Physics (IOP) publication.