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Canada does fertilizer

17 Aug 2022 | News Roundup

Another thing that didn’t get better while we were relaxing was the herd of independent minds getting the inspiration to shut down farming to keep the world from bursting into flames. In the Netherlands it’s going from bad to worse, but here in Canada the federal government jumped on the bandwagon with plans to cut nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer, in the middle of an inflation crisis with looming food shortages. And before we get to the appalling human cost of this latest scheme from the projectors who don’t know where wealth comes from, we want to ask a nitpicky question: According to your beloved computer models, how much difference would this drastic step make to global temperature in 2100? Not a hundredth of a degree, right?

Right. Because if everyone met their overall Paris commitments it would supposedly reduce warming by 0.1°C and since everybody knowscarbon pollution“ is the big problem, with methane its sidekick, there’s very little left for nitrogen to contribute. We might add that the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen so good luck increasing that fraction. But apparently nitrous oxide is a climate supervillain, worse even than methane.

According to a study out of Stanford University, a private organization nearly three-quarters of whose research budget comes from governments, “Nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas,’ is the most important greenhouse gas after methane and carbon dioxide and the biggest human-related threat to the ozone layer.” What’s more it’s gaining on the main perps: “In the industrial era, carbon dioxide has been responsible for about 10 times as much warming as nitrous oxide. But nitrous oxide is more potent: One pound of the gas warms the atmosphere some 300 times more than a pound of carbon does over a 100-year period.” And guess what the settled science says. Right. “Nitrous oxide emissions from human activities have ballooned 30 percent over the past four decades, barreling past the highest emission levels scientists have projected in climate models, according to new estimates published Oct. 7 in the journal Nature.” So much for those models, one might say.

The suspiciously round “300 times” as bad seems to be in vogue nowadays, including in a CBC piece that admits we measure atmospheric N2O concentration in parts per billion rather even than the parts per million of CO2. If the environment is that fragile, it’s amazing it lasted this long. And stunning to think that we might turn down the temperature by a degree or more just by getting back from 331 ppb to 270. The Fraser Institute’s Kenneth Green ridiculed the notion that reducing Canadian N2O emissions could have any impact on temperature, and the government’s oleaginous and “Orwellian” claim that this new policy was “supporting farmers.”

Of course just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. But before you say every little bit helps let’s acknowledge that it isn’t true when you also take account of the costs. That business with the Canmore city council pondering forcing businesses to close their doors in winter, literally, as “part of a larger strategy to fight climate change”, seems especially fatuous. (As with Connecticut buying electric buses and hoping they don’t keep bursting into flames.)

When a scheme to combat warming has no effect on temperature but causes huge economic harm, it doesn’t just reduce our capacity to adapt to whatever future changes we failed to prevent, it reduces our capacity to pursue other measures in the present that might potentially have accomplished something useful. And if the Canadian government stays true to form and bungles its main GHG reduction plans while crushing farming, and the former is well under way with remarkable complacency, it will be a display of destructive incompetence remarkable even by its increasingly impressive standards.

A study from MNP says the impact of the contemplated 30% reduction in N2O emissions over eight years would be a loss to farmers of as much as $45 billion. Admittedly the study was done on behalf of something called “Fertilizer Canadawhich “represents manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulphur fertilizers.” So they have a dog in the fight. But the fact that they make money selling fertilizer to farmers isn’t proof that fertilizer is useless. Quite the contrary.

It is often overlooked that governments too have a dog in the fight. Saving us all from climate catastrophe is a great vote-getter and worth spending money on. Just not your own. And this scheme shows the remarkable insouciance of governments about the way citizens actually live and the value of their desires and preferences. Like Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault’s department recently channeling their inner Marie Antoinettes with the breezy statement that if the ban on single-use plastic forks was ruining Canadians’ food truck experience, they should eat with their hands while the trucks, instead of selling all that weird messy junk, should stick to sandwiches. “Businesses could also consider providing more meal options that do not require the use of cutlery, e.g. wraps and sandwiches.”

Also if you think you need a straw you’re a dolt, and servers should get over stir sticks simply by “redesigning how beverages are served”. Yeah. Maybe just spray them in our faces or something. Which is rather condescending advice from a people who have never run a food stand and whose own endeavours with regard to, say, computerized pay systems haven’t exactly worked out.

Lorne Gunter observed that very few Canadians now farm or even know anyone who does, “All of which goes a long way to explaining how our prime minister, a trust-fund baby who grew up in the sheltered neighbourhood of Mount Royal, could simply decree a 30 per cent reduction in the use of fertilizers to produce food.” But everybody eats, so he added that “Justin Trudeau demonstrates a total lack of practical understanding of how our food is produced” and that “Another sign of Trudeau’s disconnect from the real world (and an indication that nothing matters to him as much as the cult of climate alarmism) is that he has proclaimed his new fertilizer-reduction regulation in the middle of the worst food inflation Canadian consumers have faced in 40 years.”

He added that probably the Trudeau administration, just as it privately welcomed soaring gas prices because they would make us stop using fossil fuels, may privately welcome soaring prices for meat in particular so we will stop eating it. Many alarmists hate meat and want to feed us bugs. But as in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands, our politicians may soon realize how attached petty Canadians are to food they can afford and actually like.

8 comments on “Canada does fertilizer”

  1. “Nitrous oxide... is the most important greenhouse gas after methane and carbon dioxide...”
    Did somebody forget about water vapor? Last I heard, it was the biggest villain.

  2. Before shutting down fertilizer use around the world, there are a few questions that need to be asked:
    1. How important is nitrous oxide (N2O) as a greenhouse gas compared to all the other greenhouse gases (including water vapour)?
    2. Of all the N2O in the atmosphere, how much comes from natural sources over which we have little or no control, and how much comes from fertilizer use?
    3. If fertilizer use were to remain unchecked, what would be the global temperature rise due to its use by the year 2100?
    Until we get some sensible answers I will continue to regard the present craze for fertilizer reduction by our glorious leaders as mere virtue signaling by scientific ignoramuses.

  3. Meanwhile there's many enterprises exploring the "Ammonia economy". As Hydrogen is such an uncooperative and inefficient element to produce, store, transport, and consume, there are people out there perusing the use of NH3 as an alternative. I can think of several drawbacks to an ammonia fuelled ship, aeroplane or car, but clearly these well-intentioned organisations haven't got the memo about NH3, NO2 etc being dangerous to the climate.

  4. Thylacine: Correct. Can you imagine pols and their attendant bureaucrats having a way to prevent oceans from evaporation and thus adding water vapour to the atmosphere. They might want to first practice on a neighbourhood lake.

  5. So Technically Unsound…..you don’t have to be a genius to have a look at
    https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Atmospheric_Transmission.png
    Nitrogen oxides absorb mostly at the same frequencies as water vapour, Co2, and methane, so if they are reduced, they would make very little difference, approximately 1/100th of a degree if cut in half.
    Nitrogen oxides do have a high “Global Warming Potential”, as defined by IPCC, but this is a very fear mongering type of number designed to curtail industrial production of synthetic chlorinated fluorocarbons ….really little to do with oxides of nitrogen that are naturally produced by many plant roots in quantities of at least double or more, than mankind produces industrially.

  6. To be clear, the government wants a nitrous oxide reduction of 30%. This may involve using less fertilizer but possibly not. NOx production varies by a huge amount yearly as it depends on the weather. The worst is to put all your N down on the surface at planting, then have a light rain. Waterlogging is bad too. Bacterial inhibitors can slow down this process. Smaller, more frequent N applications help too. I sprayed N fixing bacteria on my wheat and soys this year which may allow a 25%N reduction. The world will not end with this goal. About 1/2 of applied N is wasted, either boiled off or leached into the groundwater, where in extreme cases in can cause nitrite poisoning. The dead zone at the Mississippi delta is largely from lost fertilizer. Waste is a sin.

  7. Nitrogen oxides are very reactive in the atmosphere. UV light, ozone and rain keep nitrogen oxides in the low hundred parts per billion range even though our very atmosphere is composed of Nitrogen and Oxygen. Reactions with volatile organics (VOC and BTEX) cause smog in cities. Catalytic converters on vehicle exhausts have largely solved this problem. This was never a rural agricultural problem and making it one for farm fertilizer is a long ways from ecologically sound “logic”.

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