The CO2 enemy is losing profile in media and in environmental policy worldwide. For those who live from environmental problems, the lack of problems creates problems, if you’re still following… Solving perceived problems is clearly also a ‘market’ for the UNs Environmental Programme. The waining CO2-perception creates the need to identify another life-threatening evil to combat. Readers of this blog will not be impressed with another ‘science-based’ worldwide problem coming from the UN. Also on ‘non-climate’ issues the UN’s scientific track record is poor, as demonstrated in their assessment of substances mimicking hormones. A report on these endocrine disrupting substances was published with prominent logo’s of UNEP and WHO on the cover, but as we described here both organisations transferred their responsibility in small font on page 2 to the activist-scientist authors of the report. Other scientists argued in public against this assessment and ongoing analysis continues to demonstrate significant flaws, to be reported on a future occasion.
Do not laugh about UNEPs secret weapon being moved in
With CO2 losing attention and continued failure to motivate the world to join the fight for better weather in 2080, there is a need to bring in new troops. The new secret weapon is called nitrous oxide, N2O, or laughing gas, but UNEP’s Secretary General does not want us to laugh about this:
Although not as prevalent in the atmosphere as CO2 in terms of mass, N2O – commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ is far from a laughing matter in respect to climate and ozone damage as it has a disproportionate impact on global warming..
Sure, if the amount is low there is a need for a ‘disproportionate’ hazard to create a problem. A scientific report is usually published when the study is finished, so is it cynical to observe that the report was published on the Thursday during the most critical part of the UNFCC COP19 meeting in Warsaw? A scientific study would use a title such as ‘The impact of anthropogenic atmospheric N2O on…’ or similar wording, but UNEP is no longer hiding itself under (settled) science. They launch straight into the need for action and this time they take full responsibility: ‘Drawing down N2O to protect climate and the ozone layer.
The press release does not leave any doubt about UNEP’s nature either:
Often-overlooked yet potent pollutant nitrous oxide poses ozone and climate risks, UN warns
Note that UNEP warns, not reports. And of course this action is urgent and needs funding, around $12 billion annually for across-the-board improvement for nitrogen use. But it is a good investment we’re assured, as it will save around $23 billion in annual fertilizer costs alone. And the additional health and environmental benefits could reach $160bn a year.
Cows are also guilty
In addition to UNEP’s ‘disproportionate’ hazard identification some further wiki and other facts to finalise.
The use of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug at “laughing gas parties”, primarily arranged for the British upper class, became an immediate success beginning in 1799. [Nitrous oxide was clearly the XTC of the 19th century]. Atmospheric concentrations are 315 parts per billion (ppb) compared to a pre-industrial high of 275 ppb, much lower than carbon dioxide.
Nitrous oxide is emitted by bacteria in soils and oceans, and thus has been a part of Earth’s atmosphere for aeons. Agriculture is the main source of human-produced nitrous oxide: cultivating soil, the use of nitrogen fertilisers, and animal waste handling can all stimulate naturally occurring bacteria to produce more nitrous oxide. The livestock sector (primarily cows, chickens, and pigs) produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide
In addition to help reduce the CO2 ‘emissions gap’ by reducing N2O, UNEP also advises action on ‘cutting food waste, reducing the use of fires for forest clearance and the severity of wildfires, and treating effluent from fish farms. A price could also be put on nitrogen pollution through levies, incentives or tradable permits’.
Globally tradable permits, brilliant idea. I guess the ETS will serve as an example.