Scientists seek global action on reactive nitrogen

‘Current lack of policy coherency risks nitrogen trade-offs, while failing to harvest synergies at local, regional and global scales’

By Sunderarajan Padmanabhan
Published: Wednesday 23 October 2019

About 200 scientists from 44 countries have called upon United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take global level action on reactive nitrogen and address the crisis being caused by unregulated release of nitrogen across the world. 

A UN Environment Programme on ‘Sustainable Nitrogen Campaign’ is slated for October 23-24 in Colombo.

“If we want to beat climate change, air pollution, water pollution, biodiversity loss, soil degradation and stratospheric ozone depletion, then a new focus on nitrogen will be vital,” the scientists wrote. The signatories represented the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and its regional offices.

“Nitrogen poses a threat to the health of humans, animals and plants, and to livelihoods globally. It has many forms: Ammonia and nitrogen dioxide are dangerous air pollutants; nitrate is devastating ecosystems in our rivers, seas and soils; and nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide,” they wrote.

“The current lack of policy coherency risks nitrogen trade-offs, while failing to harvest synergies at local, regional and global scales,” they added.

INI Chair N Raghuram, also a biotechnologist at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, said: “Nitrogen is not just another problem, but must be part of the solution. Sustainable nitrogen management would help prevent millions of premature deaths, help ensure food security, and simultaneously help protect wildlife and the ozone layer.”

The appeal by the scientists also noted that: “Nitrogen losses from crop, meat and dairy production, transport, energy and wastewater represent a massive resource waste of $200 billion annually. An ambitious goal to ‘Halve Nitrogen Waste’ from all sources globally by 2030 would save $100 billion per year, while mobilising innovation to beat pollution globally. We are committed to support work on this goal. We now call on UN Member States to wake up to the challenge.” (India Science Wire)


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