Greenhouse gas trends
Nitrous oxide has significant global warming potential as a greenhouse gas. On a per-molecule basis, considered over a 100-year period, nitrous oxide has 298 times the atmospheric heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide (CO
A 2008 study by Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen suggests that the amount of nitrous oxide release attributable to agricultural nitrate fertilisers has been seriously underestimated, most of which presumably, would come under soil and oceanic release in the Environmental Protection Agency data.
Nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere through agriculture, when farmers add nitrogen-based fertilizers onto the fields, through the breakdown of animal manure. Approximately 79 percent of all nitrous oxide released in the United States came from nitrogen fertilization. Nitrous oxide is also released as a by-product of burning fossil fuel, though the amount released depends on which fuel was used. It is also emitted through the manufacture of Nitric acid, which is used in the synthesis of nitrogen fertilizers. The production of adipic acid, a precursor to nylon and other synthetic clothing fibres, also releases nitrous oxide. The total amount of nitrous oxide released that is of human origins is about 40 percent.
Ozone layer depletion
In the In the United States, possession of nitrous oxide is legal under federal law and is not subject to DEA purview. It is, however, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under the Food Drug and Cosmetics Act; prosecution is possible under its "misbranding" clauses, prohibiting the sale or distribution of nitrous oxide for the purpose of human consumption. Many states have laws regulating the possession, sale and distribution of nitrous oxide. Such laws usually ban distribution to minors or limit the amount of nitrous oxide that may be sold without special license. For example, in the state of California, possession for recreational use is prohibited and qualifies as a misdemeanour.
In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has warned that nitrous oxide is a prescription medicine, and its sale or possession without a prescription is an offense under the Medicines Act. This statement would seemingly prohibit all non-medicinal uses of nitrous oxide, although it is implied that only recreational use will be targeted legally.