Essay Example on Total emissions of nitrogen primarily through the use of nitrogen Fertilizer








Human activities account for a significant 38 of total emissions of nitrogen primarily through the use of nitrogen fertilizer Since 2000 100 teragrams Tg of nitrogen have been released each year from the spreading of nitrogen fertilizer As modern farming methods have become more widespread so has the rate of nitrogen fixation the natural process in which unreactive atmospheric nitrogen is converted into reactive nitrogen Increased growing of crops such as legumes which fix nitrogen have added another 40 Tg of reactive nitrogen Burning of wood for fuel and the clearing of forests and grasslands for agriculture converts another 40 Tg Draining wetlands adds another 10 Tg and clearing swaths of vegetation for crops adds an additional 20 Tg Fossil fuel combustion contributes about 20 Tg Fields This addition of nitrogen to the atmosphere allows for a greater increase in the natural production of ammonia nitrogen oxide and nitrous oxides which all contribute to suspended particles in the air and acid rain

This causes respiratory problems and cancers for people and damage to forests and buildings Some may argue that the release of nitrogen by humans is insignificant compared to the natural release of nitrogen and that humans are not responsible for the damage it is causing However by looking at the concentrations of nitrogen over time this can easily be refuted Prior to the Industrial Revolution the concentration of nitrous oxide stayed at safe levels This was due to natural sinks which allowed the Earth to remove them through natural processes However human activities are now creating emissions much more rapidly than the Earth can naturally remove them Human nitrogen emissions have almost doubled the amount of natural inputs existing at the beginning of the industrial age with nitrous oxide emissions having increased by 40 50 over pre industrial levels leaving nitrous oxide levels at the highest they have been in 800 000 years Main Sources of Nitrous Oxide Emissions The largest human source of carbon dioxide emissions is from the combustion of fossil fuels producing 87 of all human carbon dioxide emissions The burning of fossil fuels creates 33 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually The generation of heat and electricity is the largest source of human carbon dioxide emissions producing 41 of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions This giant carbon footprint can be explained through the industry s reliance on coal the fossil fuel that releases the most carbon dioxide upon being combusted

The transportation industry is the second largest source of man made carbon dioxide emissions producing 22 of human related fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions Emissions from this industry have grown rapidly having increased by 45 within the past 20 years The manufacturing industry is the third largest source of man made carbon dioxide emissions producing 20 of fossil fuel related carbon dioxide emissions contributing 1 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually Carbon Dioxide Emissions The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not due to natural causes but rather humans During the last ice age carbon dioxide levels were around 200 parts per million ppm Today carbon dioxide levels are at a record 410 ppm the highest they have been in 15 to 20 million years According to NASA if fossil fuel burning continues and increases at the current rate carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise up to 1500 ppm The atmosphere would then not return to normal levels even tens of thousands of years into the future Graphic The Relentless Rise of Carbon Dioxide Both nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide contribute to global warming due to the greenhouse effect The greenhouse effect warms the Earth The surface of the earth re radiates solar energy from the sun back towards space as infrared radiation The atmosphere is transparent to the visible light coming from the sun but due to greenhouse gases it is more opaque at many wavelengths resulting in some of the thermal energy being trapped leading to the warming of the Earth Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide act as greenhouse gases

At higher altitudes nitrous oxide not only acts as a greenhouse gas but also destroys ozone In the stratosphere which is 10 km above the Earth's surface ultraviolet light breaks down nitrous oxide down producing nitric oxide which in turn breaks down ozone Destroying ozone in the stratosphere allows more ultraviolet light to reach the Earth's surface resulting in increased global warming Nitrous oxide has the capacity to absorb 300x as much radiation as carbon dioxide Fields Carbon dioxide will stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years After a pulse of carbon dioxide is released 40 of the emissions still remain in the atmosphere in 100 years 20 after 1000 years and 10 after 10 000 years Farley 

The absorption power and residence time for nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide respectively is what make these two gases so impactful to the environment Global warming has and will continue cause severe ecological damage The lengths of spring and summer have been increasing since the 1980s and are expected to increase by a month each by the end of the century The average precipitation has also increased since 1900 with increased winter and spring precipitation being expected over the century Hurricanes will become stronger and more intense The duration frequency and intensity of all hurricanes in general as well as category 4 and 5 hurricanes the strongest types of hurricanes have all increased over the past 4 decades Global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches since 1880 and are expected to rise up to 4 feet by 2100 This is the due to the expansion of water as it warms and the added water from melting ice from sources such as the Arctic which is expected to become ice free by the mid century The intensity of storm surges and tides will increase due to the sea level rise resulting in more frequent and intense flooding Global Climate Change Effects

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