New Books from EarthScan
 
          
Edited by Dave Reay, Pete Smith and Andre van Amstel
May 2010 •  272 pages •  240 x 170mm •  ISBN 9781844078233
 
Methane is, after carbon di oxide, the second most important green house gas affected by human activities. Though methane has a relatively short life time in the atmosphere, it has a high global warming potential. Editors, Dave Reay, Pete Smith and Andre van Amstel, of Methane and Climate Change, suggest that significant reductions of methane emissions due to human activities can have a considerable effect in reduced climate forcing in a few decades, and that it is technically and economically feasible to do so.
 
The book begins with an overview of the global methane budget. The second chapter explains the production of methane by microbial action. The various sources of methane and the changes in status of these sources are dealt with in detail in individual chapters on wetlands, geological methane, termites, vegetation, biomass burning, rice cultivation, ruminants, waste-water, landfills, and fossil energy. The editors’ summary highlights the challenges in developing methane inventories, not least because biological processes are involved in the production and release of methane, such as from soils and wetlands.
 
The chapter on options for methane control provides an overview of a number of options for control of emissions and recovery, suggesting that it is both technically possible and cost-effective in many cases.
       
                  
                              
                
Edited By Keith Smith
May 2010 •  256 pages •  240 x 170mm •  ISBN 9781844077571
 
Nitrous oxide is a significant green house gas, third in importance after carbon di oxide and methane. It also contributes to the loss of ozone that acts as a barrier to the penetration of ultraviolet radiation to the earth’s surface. Editor Keith Smith explains that a generation ago, the ozone damaging property of nitrous oxide was the main environmental concern associated with the gas. But in recent years there is new knowledge about global warming and the role of nitrous oxide.
 
Like methane, N2O is mainly a product of microbial activity, driven by the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. Combustion and industrial production of nitric acid and adipic acid (used in nylon manufacture) are the main non-biological sources. The book provides information on the past, present and future trends in emissions of N2O into the atmosphere from different sources and suggests ways to mitigate these.
 
There is action to reduce the industrial point-source emissions of N2O. However, there are significant challenges in reducing the emissions from agriculture. The use of nitrogen fertilizers have led to increases in farm yields, and with population likely to continue to rise in the coming decades, increasing food production will become a necessity. The chapters on emissions from livestock and arable lands suggest that policies that reward low-greenhouse-gas intensity food production and a global transition to a low-meat diet could have a pronounced impact on agricultural greenhouse gas emission. The authors do not go into the details of different systems of food production (industrial, traditional, organic, etc) but do acknowledge that there is no simple approach to reducing N2O emissions from arable land. Management practices differ from region to region, socio-economic conditions, soil and climate conditions, levels of production and fertilizer inputs etc.
 
Both books have contributions from several eminent researchers and practitioners and would be useful for those engaged in evolving policies, professionals, NGOs, as well as for researchers and college and university-level courses.
   
              
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