Scare of the day: Rising use of nitrogen fertilisers could jeopardise global climate goals

Posted: November 20, 2020 by oldbrew in Agriculture, Emissions, ozone, research
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That’s a large chunk of the global food supply in the dock then, according to IPCC-based ‘greenhouse’ climate theories that perform badly in climate models, leading to endless over-prediction of global warming.
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The growing use of nitrogen fertilisers in world food production could put ambitious climate targets out of reach, as it leads to rising levels of nitrous oxide (N2O) in the atmosphere, a new University of Oslo study shows.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a highly potent greenhouse gas, and its impact on global warming is 300 times larger than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Once emitted, N2O remains in the atmosphere for more than 100 years. What’s more – it also depletes the ozone layer.

If left unabated, the emissions resulting from the growing use of nitrogen fertilisers will require bigger reductions in CO2 emissions to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, according to the study.

The study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature, and was led by Professor Hanqin Tian at Auburn University in the United States. Scientists from 48 research institutions in 14 countries have contributed to the study, whose goal was to produce the most comprehensive assessment to date of all sources and sinks of N2O.

Agriculture accounts for over half of global, human-made N2O emissions

Agriculture accounts for over half of the global human-made N2O emissions, with emissions from this sector growing at a rate of 1.4% per year, according to Glen Peters. He is a research director at CICERO Center for International Climate Research and is one of the authors of the study.

“About two-thirds of the nitrous oxide emissions in agriculture come from the use of synthetic fertilisers. Excess fertiliser makes great food for soil bacteria and enhances the microbial processes that lead to nitrous oxide emissions,” says Peters.

“The remaining one-third comes from livestock manure, with the emissions being the result of microbial processes that break down nitrogen-containing compounds in the soil and oceans. These are the same microbial processes that lead to natural nitrous oxide emissions,” he adds.

Fertiliser use and manure are also to blame for human-made N2O emissions that are remote from agricultural land, according to Peters.

“Excess nitrogen may be transported to other places through water runoff and atmospheric dispersion, which leads to further nitrous oxide emissions,” he says, adding that these indirect N2O emissions constitute around 15% of the total and are growing at around 1% per year.

Other sources of human-induced N2O emissions include fossil fuel combustion, industrial production of fertilisers and synthetic materials – particularly nylon – wastewater, and biomass burning. Together, these sources account for about 25% of the total, with their emissions increasing at 0.9% per year.

Dramatic rise in N2O emissions over the past few decades

“N2O concentrations in the atmosphere have been stable for thousands of years, but the N2O concentration has risen dramatically over the past few decades and its growth has accelerated over the last ten years due to emissions from various human activities,” says Rona Thompson. She is a senior scientist at NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research and is one of the lead authors of the study.

Going forward, “the currently growing demand for food – and in particular, meat – will just further increase global N2O emissions,” adds Tian, the study’s lead author.

In terms of per capita N2O emissions, the world’s biggest emitters are North America, and Europe, according to the study. N2O emissions are growing fastest in Asia, Africa, and South America, mainly due to increasing use of nitrogen fertiliser.

The highest growth rates for N2O emissions are found in emerging economies, particularly in Brazil, China, and India, where both crop production and livestock numbers have increased.

Europe is the only region in the world that has reduced its N2O emissions over the past two decades. Europe’s cut in N2O emissions is mainly the result of policies aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from industry.

A small share of the reduction is due to lower emissions from agriculture, resulting from nitrogen fertilisers being used more efficiently.

In the U.S., meanwhile, N2O emissions have remained relatively stable, despite growing agricultural output.

Cutting fertiliser use is also good for the environment

Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilisers does not only lead to lower N2O emissions; it is also good for the environment because it results in improved air, soil, and water quality.

Full article here.

  1. JB says:

    “the N2O concentration has risen dramatically over the past few decades and its growth has accelerated over the last ten years due to emissions from various human activities,” says Rona Thompson.”

    I don’t see how it is possible to conjure an experiment or test that can definitively ascertain this. To me, this is just as much pseudo-science as medical staff saying that people died of COVID without ever having properly tested the person (using electronmicroscopy) in question of its ubiquitous presence. Humans are not the only source of N2O.

    Having been involved in farming using fertilizers, the assertion that disuse is better for ” air, soil, and water quality” is dissembling to say the least. NON-rotation of crops is far more damaging to the soil. Dr Jacob Mittleider proved to people all over the world how it is possible to raise bumper crops in ANY kind of soil, when properly treated and fertilzed. No farmer is going to employ fertilization methods that put the stuff into the air rather than into the soil to be absorbed. Liquid ammonia was once tried and abandoned because it was found solid forms actually got absorbed rather than vaporizing into the atmosphere.

  2. saighdear says:

    Awa ye go! Nitrogen fertilisers when used judiciously are a way of gaining extra yield without excess water requirements: an old source of Knowledge /practice. Is this the quality of modern Planck learning ? We apply sufficient Nitrogen fertilisers early in the season to capitalise on any growth potential of the plant from some rain and sun /Heat.

  3. stpaulchuck says:

    another back door attack on the food supply. The man-bun, Birkenstock wearing doofuses (doofi?) tried their ‘organic’ farming and delivered substandard food in both quality of content as well as taste and yield. Now this is the new attack. *spit* A pox on all these neo-hippies and the bicycle they rode in on.

  4. Gamecock says:

    Natural sources of N2O are okay. Even though there are more natural emissions than human emissions. Cos Man bad.

  5. oldbrew says:

    Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a highly potent greenhouse gas, and its impact on global warming is 300 times larger than that of carbon dioxide (CO2).


    Nitrous oxide is a minor component of Earth’s atmosphere, currently with a concentration of about 0.330 ppm

    One part in 3 million of the atmosphere, of which ‘36% due to human activity’ (Wiki).

  6. hunterson7 says:

    It’s like the klimate konsensus krowd has read “Atlas Shrugged”. Instead of seeing the ending with its breakdown of society and incipient famine and violence as a warning, they took it as a goal.

  7. Phoenix44 says:

    How can not using fertiliser result in better quality soil?

    Farmers are just completely stupid are they?

  8. saighdear says:

    @Phoenix44, Huh methinks the “modern” farmers ARE stupid going by what they come out with: – maybe based on what they’ve learnt ( not).
    But it’s funny how so often we see people at Head of Companies / Organisations, etc have NO relevant qualifictions yet lead the group. ( promoted BEYOND their capabilities – WHY do we Do That ? )

  9. oldbrew says:

    N2O soil effects can be mitigated…

    SFGATE: The Effects of Nitrogen Fertilizer

    Soil Acidity

    Over time, ammonium nitrogen fertilizers gradually lower the soil’s pH, making it more acidic. Some types of ammonia solutions, including urea, increase a soil’s pH temporarily and may burn plant roots. However, as the ammonia converts to nitrate, it forms acidic residue that makes the topsoil more acidic than the deeper soil. To prevent problems from this, you should test the top 2 inches of soil about every other year to make sure it’s not too acidic for healthy plant growth; if it is, you’ll need to amend the soil with limestone.

  10. Chaswarnertoo says:

    The next climate squirrel is warmed up. Anyone want to bet Soreass didn’t fund this?

  11. ivan says:

    So, we have more over paid ignorant uneducated wackademics pontificating from their ivory towers about something they know little or nothing about.

    I tend to think if you put them on a working farm and told them to continue running it at a profit they would give up after the first week because they know nothing about working or living in the real world.

  12. V.P. Elect Smith says:

    Oh, and it is a natural product of plants:

    Better kill off all the plants on the planet… /sarc;

  13. oldbrew says:

    V.P. Elect Smith says:
    – – –
    Indeed. The climate goons will be looking for remedies no doubt.

    One particularly interesting question is how increasing global temperatures affect the rate at which plants release nitrous oxide. –

    Oh no – is it a positive feedback loop 😆