The full horror of the ‘nitrogen’ war on agriculture is becoming more apparent every day. Food supplies around the world face collapse if the use of nitrogen fertiliser is severely restricted under Net Zero requirements. It is claimed that the fertiliser is warming the Earth and causing the climate to break down, as the by-product nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere. In fact the entire global food supply is in danger of being trashed for the sake of what recent scientific work notes is almost unmeasurable 0.064°C warming per century.
Policies to address this non-existent crisis have already done enormous harm in Sri Lanka, where a ban on nitrogen fertiliser caused a rapid collapse in food yields, and led to the President fleeing the country in a hurry. The Canadian Government is committed to a 30% reduction in N2O levels by 2030. In the Netherlands, the Government is following European Union instructions and trying to remove farmers from the land. Any compensation paid will be tied to a restriction not to start farming again anywhere in the EU. Political discontent is growing, and there are already fears for the supply of agricultural products since the Netherlands is the second largest food exporter in the world.
Nitrogen is a vital component of plant metabolism which is obtained from the soil. Alas, there is not enough nitrogen in the soil to grow plants at the scale needed to feed global populations. Before the arrival of commercial nitrogen fertilisers, famine was a frequent feature of the unreliable food supply across parts of the world. Without the fertiliser, famine will resume its gruesome role, something mainstream Net Zero politicians have to address in the near future. Virtue-signalling green delusions about ‘rewilding’, bug diets and organic farming will not feed the world, probably not even a quarter of it.
A recent theoretical physics paper from four distinguished scientists said there was evidence that the amount of N2O in the atmosphere, a gas with warming properties, had never been constant over time. There have been large changes in atmospheric concentrations in inter-glacial periods like the current one. Nitrous oxide is a more powerful ‘greenhouse’ gas than carbon dioxide, but it accounts for only 0.34 parts per million (ppm), growing at only 0.00085 ppm per year. Currently CO2 is at 420 ppm, and the molecules are increasing 3,000 times faster in the atmosphere than N2O.
Like all greenhouse gases, its ability to trap heat within narrow bands of the infrared spectrum diminishes after a certain level as the gas becomes ‘saturated’. This helps explain why greenhouse gas levels have been much higher in the past without the Earth turning into an Armageddon fireball. After a certain point, any increased warming becomes logarithmic, according to the physicists, meaning it rises ever more slowly in response to additional greenhouse gases, which again provides a plausible explanation as to why temperatures have stayed within a relatively small band across the paleo record.
Every day seems to bring fresh concerns about the destruction likely to be wrought by the collectivist Net Zero project. As we have seen in recent articles, absolutist Net Zero fanatics at the Government-funded U.K. FIRES project look to a world in 2050 where Britain will lose 75% of its energy. Flying, shipping and eating beef and lamb will be banned, while bricks, concrete and glass will almost cease to exist. All the major political parties supporting the current strategy run away from facing true Net Zero reality. In the view of U.K. FIRES leader Professor Julian Allwood, the current strategy is as unrealistic as “magic beans fertilised by unicorn’s blood”.
The four physicists note that few citizens realise that the effects of N2O on the atmosphere are “negligible”. The proposed burdensome regulations on farming, ranching and dairying “will have no perceptible effect on climate, but some of them will do great harm to agricultural productivity and food supplies”. It is noted that one of the major factors behind the world’s “unprecedented” abundance of food in recent years has been the use of mineral nitrogen fertiliser. “It is not possible to maintain highly productive agriculture without nitrogen fertiliser,” they add.
One of the authors of the recent report, Professor William Happer of Princeton, recently teamed up with Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT to make clear what a disaster the world faced. Billions of people around the world faced starvation if the production of nitrogen fertiliser was banned. It would create “worldwide starvation” once half the world does not have enough to eat.
To back up their claims, the authors published the above graph. This shows clearly the “remarkable” increase in crop yields after the widespread use of nitrogen fertiliser began around 1950.
In his theoretical paper, Happer also notes some of the disasters that have occurred in the past when “ideologically-driven” government agriculture mandates “have usually led to disaster”. In the Soviet Union, a war on farmers in the 1930s led to millions dying of starvation. Folk memories of the Golodomor (hunger-murder), when millions of Ukrainians also died at the same time, “played no small part” in the present war in Ukraine.
Mandates to restrict animal numbers and fertiliser use will dramatically slash agricultural yields. To continue feeding the world, agricultural areas will have to increase and encroach on native habitats, which could have remained untouched with sensible use of fertiliser. “The result will be more environmental stress, not less,” the physicists write. When even the projected benefit is so negligible, this is a policy with nothing to commend it.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.