Inventories and scenarios of nitrous oxide emissions

Eric A. Davidson, David Kanter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Effective mitigation for N2O emissions, now the third most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and the largest remaining anthropogenic source of stratospheric ozone depleting substances, requires understanding of the sources and how they may increase this century. Here we update estimates and their uncertainties for current anthropogenic and natural N2O emissions and for emissions scenarios to 2050. Although major uncertainties remain, 'bottom-up' inventories and 'top-down' atmospheric modeling yield estimates that are in broad agreement. Global natural N2O emissions are most likely between 10 and 12 Tg N2O-N yr-1. Net anthropogenic N2O emissions are now about 5.3 Tg N2O-N yr-1. Gross anthropogenic emissions by sector are 66% from agriculture, 15% from energy and transport sectors, 11% from biomass burning, and 8% from other sources. A decrease in natural emissions from tropical soils due to deforestation reduces gross anthropogenic emissions by about 14%. Business-as-usual emission scenarios project almost a doubling of anthropogenic N2O emissions by 2050. In contrast, concerted mitigation scenarios project an average decline of 22% relative to 2005, which would lead to a near stabilization of atmospheric concentration of N2O at about 350 ppb. The impact of growing demand for biofuels on future projections of N2O emissions is highly uncertain; N2O emissions from second and third generation biofuels could remain trivial or could become the most significant source to date. It will not be possible to completely eliminate anthropogenic N2O emissions from agriculture, but better matching of crop N needs and N supply offers significant opportunities for emission reductions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number105012
    JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


    • N<inf>2</inf>O
    • RCPs
    • climate change
    • greenhouse gases
    • nitrogen cycle
    • ozone depleting substance
    • representative concentration pathways

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
    • General Environmental Science
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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