The Overlooked Ecological Benefits of Fertilizer (and Fossil Fuel) Use

Watts Up With That?

Guest essay by Indur M. Goklany

The BBC in an otherwise good article by Tim Harford, the well-known economist and a regular contributor to The Financial Times and Slate, reminds us that fossil fuels are essential to manufacturing nitrogenous fertilizer and, therefore, to feeding humanity. He then goes on to note that the use of such fertilizers contributes to various environmental problems:

 [They emit] compounds like nitrous oxide [which] are powerful greenhouse gases.

They pollute drinking water.

They also create acid rain, which makes soils more acidic, disrupting ecosystems, and threatening biodiversity.]

When nitrogen compounds run off into rivers, they likewise promote the growth of some organisms more than others.

The results include ocean “dead zones”, where blooms of algae near the surface block out sunlight and kill the fish below.

Unfortunately, this list, like current calculations of the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) calculations, omits any mention of…

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