Over 150 top Scientists seek global action on reactive nitrogen

About 200 leading scientists from 44 countries have called upon the UN 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.

The scientists made the appeal on the eve of the launch of a United Nations Environment Program on ‘Sustainable Nitrogen Campaign’ on 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,” they wrote to the UN. The signatories represent the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and its regional offices.

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

Prof. N. Raghuram, the Chair of INI and a biotechnologist at the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi, noted, “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, “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.”

Sunderarajan Padmanabhan is a contributor at India Science Wire.

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