Nitrogen as pollutant and lifegiver

Nitrogen

Obligatory photo showing dangerous  nitrogen pollution emanating from a  large vehicle (Photo credit: Wolfram Burner)

From Kansas State University, dueling statements, which I’ve highlighted in bold. Its the same sort of nonsense argument we here for Carbon Dioxide, that while essential for all life on the planet, it is also a pollutant. I see a nitrogen tax in our future if this nutty idea takes hold. – Anthony

Global nitrogen availability consistent for past 500 years, linked to carbon levels

MANHATTAN — A Kansas State University research team has found that despite humans increasing nitrogen production through industrialization, nitrogen availability in many ecosystems has remained steady for the past 500 years. Their work appears in the journal Nature.

“People have been really interested in nitrogen in current times because it’s a major pollutant,” said Kendra McLauchlan, assistant professor of geography and director of the university’s Paleoenvironmental Laboratory. “Humans are producing a lot more nitrogen than in the past for use as crop fertilizer, and there is concern because excess levels can cause damage. The mystery, though, is whether the biosphere is able to soak up this extra nitrogen and what that means for the future.”

Nitrogen is a key component of the ecosystem and the largest regulator of plant growth. It determines how much food, fuel and fiber the land can produce. It also determines how much carbon dioxide plants remove from the atmosphere, and it interacts with several components of the climate system. Excessive amounts of nitrogen in ecosystems contribute to global warming and impairment of downstream ecosystems.

McLauchlan worked with Joseph Craine, research assistant professor in biology; Joseph Williams, postdoctoral research associate; and Elizabeth Jeffers, postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oxford. The team published their findings, “Change

s in global nitrogen cycling during the Holocene epoch,” in the current issue of Nature.

In the study the team also looked at how nitrogen availability changed thousands of years ago.

Roughly 15,000 years ago, the Earth began to warm, melting many glaciers and ice sheets that covered the landscape. Researchers found that Earth experienced an 8,000-yearlong decline in nitrogen availability as temperatures rose and carbon and nitrogen became locked up in soils. According to researchers, how the nitrogen cycle responded to these ancient global changes in carbon dioxide could be a glimpse into the future.

“What happened in the past might be a dry run for Earth’s future,” Craine said. “By looking at what happened millennia ago, we can see what controlled and prevented changes in nitrogen availability. This helps us understand and predict how things will change in the future.”

The team collected and analyzed data from the sediment records of 86 lakes scattered across six continents. The lakes were distributed between tropical and temperate zones. With the data, the team was able to compare past and present cycling in various regions.

Researchers found that once most of the glaciers and ice sheets had melted around 11,000 years ago, the Earth continued to experience a global decline in nitrogen that lasted another 4,000 years.

“That was one of the really surprising findings,” Craine said. “As the world was getting warmer and experiencing higher carbon dioxide levels than it had in the past, just like we are currently experiencing, the ecosystems were starting to lock carbon in the soils and in plants, also like we are seeing today. That created a long decline in nitrogen availability, and it scrubbed nitrogen out of the atmosphere.”

McLauchlan said the most surprising finding, however, was that although humans have nearly doubled the amount of nitrogen to the ecosystems, globally nitrogen levels have remained stable at most sites for the past 500 years.

One reason may be that plants are using more nitrogen than they previously have, keeping nitrogen levels consistent with those thousands of years ago even though humans continue to add carbon dioxide and nitrogen to the atmosphere, McLauchlan said.

“Our best idea is that the nitrogen and carbon cycles were linked tightly back then and they are linked tightly today,” McLauchlan said. “Humans are now manipulating both nitrogen and carbon at the same time, which means that there is no net effect on the biosphere.”

The balance may be only temporary, McLauchlan said.

“Based on what we learned from the past, if the response of plants to elevated carbon dioxide slows, nitrogen availability is likely to increase and ecosystems will begin to change profoundly,” McLauchlan said. “Now more than ever, it’s important to begin monitoring our grasslands and forests for early warning signs.”

The Nature study is an extension of McLauchlan’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award that examines the history of nitrogen cycling in forested and grassland environments, her research on nitrogen concentrations and grasslands at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, and Craine’s research on grasslands and climate change.

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124 thoughts on “Nitrogen as pollutant and lifegiver

  1. The balance may be only temporary, McLauchlan said.

    “Based on what we learned from the past, if the response of plants to elevated carbon dioxide slows, nitrogen availability is likely to increase and ecosystems will begin to change profoundly,” McLauchlan said. “Now more than ever, it’s important to begin monitoring our grasslands and forests for early warning signs.”

    Translation: “We don’t really understand why we couldn’t demonize anthropogenic nitrogen, but if you send us more money we’ll develop a model that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are all doomed.”

  2. Researchers found that Earth experienced an 8,000-yearlong decline in nitrogen availability as temperatures rose and carbon and nitrogen became locked up in soils
    =====================
    …and this doesn’t also explain how CO2 became limiting?

    This just reminds me of how nitrates became the pollution dejour…..nitrates are easy to test for….phosphates are hard to test for

  3. ‘it scrubbed nitrogen out of the atmosphere’. These people wouldn’t be able to tell a story straight even if they knew it.
    ==========

  4. From Webster’s Dictionary 1828

    Pollute

    v.t. [L. polluo; polluceo and possideo.]

    1. To defile; to make foul or unclean; in a general sense. But appropriately, among the Jews, to make unclean or impure, in a legal or ceremonial sense, so as to disqualify a person for sacred services, or to render things unfit for sacred uses. Num.18. Ex.20. 2 Kings 23. 2 Chron.36.

    2. To taint with guilt.

    Ye pollute yourselves with all your idols. Ezek.20.

    3. To profane; to use for carnal or idolatrous purposes.

    My sabbaths they greatly polluted. Ezek.20.

    4. To corrupt or impair by mixture of ill, moral or physical.

    Envy you my praise, and would destroy

    With grief my pleasures, and pollute my joy?

    5. To violate by illegal sexual commerce.

    How an almost inert gas that makes up 78% of the atmosphere and is essential to life is a “pollutant” is a perversion of language and illogical. Such misuse undercuts the very foundations of civil discourse and science.

  5. Seems that CO2 influences the scientists in strange ways. They begin calling the substances they talk about for a sort of short- names, even as they should know the proper names.
    CO2 is often called Carbon, and now 80% of the atmosphere is a dangerous substance, that suddenly is a pollutant like they often says CO2 is.

  6. Since the air is ~4/5 nitrogen if I remember environmental 101 correctly, it seems there are ample numbers of molecules to worry about. Don’t forget, nitrogen causes the bends, so its already a recognized health hazard. Should be easy to ban.

  7. The earth’s atmosphere near the surface is composed primarily of Nitrogen and Oxygen. Together, the two comprise about 99% of the gas in the atmosphere. Here’s a listing of the key components of the lower atmosphere
    Nitrogen – 78.084%
    Oxygen – 20.95%

    http://geography.about.com/od/physicalgeography/qt/atmcomposition.htm

    …“People have been really interested in nitrogen in current times because it’s a major pollutant,” said Kendra McLauchlan

    So something that is 78% of the atmosphere is a major pollutant. So is oxygen a minor pollutant?
    Is there no end to this kind of nonsense?

  8. First CO2 then nitrogen. It is as if the environmentalists have discovered the periodic chart and have deemed it bad. Now we need to make heaven and earth respond to their calls, although I am not sure what one is supposed to worship.

  9. I’m sorry folks I studied agriculture in university and based on what I just read somebody is definitely trying to blow smoke up our butts!

  10. Arguemnet we hear for CO2?
    Looks like the major pollutant is that of logical thought inside academia.
    If, but maybe, could, might, when do we defund these people?
    When will this team do the ground breaking research on the deadly dihydrogen monoxide?
    A major pollutant, corrosive agent, oxidizer and deadly by the gallon.

  11. Let me guess. . . . . . millions and millions and maybe even billions of dollars needs to be appropriated for further research and “monitoring our grasslands and forests” — and what better person could it be given to than the authors of the paper?

    And anybody who has any questions about spending money that way is an ignorant nitrogen denier, right?

  12. Oh God, the depths to which some ‘scientists’ are prepared to sink leaves me awe struck.

    Where can I get one of these grant supported jobs?

  13. OMFG!
    So its not April already.

    Seriously, I had this issue in two sister aircraft factories. They treated N2 as a poison!!! What we had to do was freeze the components well away from other people, where there was less ventilation, UNDER THE OFFICE STAIRS!

    At my long time proper place of work there are huge towers of this stuff. Being in the fire response team we knew full well its not a pollutant but an inert gas (80% of what we breathe) and obtained by sequestering, (freezing out) from fresh air. Most of our call-outs were from the oxygen sensors dropping below 18% (that matters); usually from the sensor going faulty.

  14. There is obviously some terminological confusion in the reporting above. The atmosphere is about 80%N2. No matter what civilization does, it won’ affect that much. The nitrogen in ecosystems is ‘fixed’, for example by bacteria symbiotic to legume roots. It is fixed nitrogen that has to be supplemented by nitrogen fertilizers such as anhydrous ammonia, urea, or nitrates (guano being a natural example) in monoagriculture. It is wholly unsurprising that fixed nitrogen cycling has remained unchanged in natural ecosystems. It has precious little to do with carbon dioxide, except affecting plant rate of growth on the margin, which has lots of other delimiters than CO2. You know, like winter, rain, sunlight, plant age distribution,…
    Universities really need to work on their PR about new minor papers. Not everything is important, and not everything is climate change.

  15. People have been really interested in nitrogen dihydrogen oxide in current times because it’s a major pollutant,…

    What’s next? Man made water as a “major pollutant”? UGH!
    MtK

  16. This article is total gibberish because nitrogen and “available” nitrogen are two entirely different things. Oxidized or reduced nitrogen is fertilizer. Nitrogen gas is useless except to nitrogen-fixing bacteria. As available nitrogen is quite often limits growth as does available CO2, more nitrogen is going to be good, in general, for the biosphere.

    “The toxicity is in the dose.” Too much fertilizer can be harmful but such conditions are more the exception than the norm.

    To talk about “nitrogen” as a pollutant is to talk stupid as it simply makes no sense. I SENSE that these people really have only a vague understanding of the nitrogen and carbon cycles and use their unextensive knowledge to extrapolate to inanity.

  17. OK . Now we must spend $billions on NCS [Nitrogen Capture and Sequestration] and OCS[Oxygen Capture and Sequestration] as well as CCS [Carbon Capture and Sequeastration].
    Then nearly ALL the atmosphere will be undergraund and all our problems are solved.;^)
    /sarc.off

  18. A broad definition of “pollute” would include any over-abundance of an organism that affects its environment, in which case all organisms, at one time or another, pollute their environment. They thus need to be regulated from now on, such that their populations NEVER fluctuate—that would create loads of green jobs—never mind that we would have NO IDEA what the proper populations should be and thus would create all kinds of unintended results which would call for more green jobs to either hunt the overpopulation or rescue those populations that are crashing due to our expert regulation. Sounds like a plan.

  19. The half lifes of the isotopes of Nitrogen are generally in seconds or less.
    I have no idea what method can be used on fossil records with this element.
    Is this woman a fraud?

  20. Idiots are a major pollutant of both the gene pool and what passes itself off as science these days. Tax them before we’re doomed!

  21. “It is as if the environmentalists have discovered the periodic chart and have deemed it bad.”

    I don’t know why you find this so difficult:
    Nature = Good
    Chemicals = Bad
    … particularly when they get into the atmosphere!

  22. I can’t tell from the press release if they’re talkig about free nitrogen (N2) which makes up most of Earth’s atmosphere, or compounds of nitrogen–ammonia, ammonium nitrate, etc.–some of which are poisonous and can be major pollutants. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer (made from natural gas), in particular, is a major water pollutant in some farming areas.

  23. McLauchlan said. “Now more than ever, it’s important to begin monitoring our grasslands and forests for early warning signs.”

    Plea for continued grants; is this the next gray train for some of these folk?

  24. This illustrates one of my greatest concerns–that the eager pursuit of money for science, by any nonsense possible, will pollute not only “the Earth (biosphere), but it will pollute science itself so badly that we may be 100 years recovering from all the lies put forth in the name of science.

    Science is so precious to me. I appreciate the authors and most posters on this site who work so hard to defend and recover real science.

  25. This is based on a press release? right?

    Reason I asked is that the article appears to have been seriously garbled — presumably by a “professional” writer called in to translate the scientist’s work into English — a job, that I suspect they could have done better themselves.

    As has already been pointed out, Nitrogen is a mostly inert gas that comprises about 80 of the atmosphere. But Nitrogen can be provoked into combining with Oxygen, Hydrogen, Carbon and other stuff and some of that stuff can be a problem when there is too much of it in the wrong place. e.g. Nitrous Oxide — NO is a player in Southern California’s notorious air pollution. So calling Nitrogen a pollutant isn’t entirely whacky. But it’s far from a precise use of words.

  26. “Humans are producing a lot more nitrogen than in the past for use as crop fertilizer, and there is concern because excess levels can cause damage. The mystery, though, is whether the biosphere is able to soak up this extra nitrogen and what that means for the future.”

    If the biosphere wasn’t able to soak it up then it wouldn’t be a crop fertilizer then would it?
    Oh my aching head.

  27. I think they mean to refer to oxides of Nitrogen, which cause smog in the air and fixed Nitrogen (nitrates) which pollute water if used in excess for farming. However, this does not significantly effect atmospheric concentration of the N2, and it would not matter if it changed concentration a little anyway. Where do they think the Nitrogen comes from that is made into fertilizer? What they say seems to be totally ignorant.

  28. Somebody warned about this not so long ago. Nitrogen is a chemical and is not to be tolerated. /sarc

  29. The responses on this topic are a perfect example of why WUWT is so consistently both rooted in science AND entertaining. Chapeau to Peter in Ohio who started it all off at the top of the show with a “translation” that threatened a coffee/keyboard incident here in the UK. Thank you Peter – and to all the other contributors who bring welcome clarity, understanding and humour to this and many other Conversations With Anthony.

  30. Kendra McLauchlan – “People have been really interested in nitrogen in current times because it’s a major pollutant,”

    More evidence CO2 Global Warming SCAM is up, and ever seeking Taxpayer funding science-alarmists are looking for next Sky is Falling.

  31. Well, let’s see. The atmosphere is 14.7 pounds per square inch, of which 11.5 pounds is nitrogen. That’s enough to make about 32.88 pounds of ammonium nitrate per square inch, or 4734 pounds of nitrogen per square foot. Given the size of the Earth, that comes to 13.0e+15 tons of potential ammonium nitrate floating around in the atmosphere. World production of AN is about 15e+6 tons per year, so unless we scale back production now we’ll run out of atmospheric nitrogen in only 866 million years. I demand immediate action.

  32. “Researchers found that Earth experienced an 8,000-yearlong decline in nitrogen availability as temperatures rose and carbon and nitrogen became locked up in soils”

    Wait! I thought rising temperatures liberated more CO2, now rising temps ‘locks it up’?

  33. Myron Mesecke;
    If the biosphere wasn’t able to soak it up then it wouldn’t be a crop fertilizer then would it?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Precisely.
    Not to mention that enormous amounts of money are spent on agricultural research for the purpose of determining what the uptake is for the express purpose of ensuring that the result is a balanced one. Otherwise the crops would be either under nourished or poisoned.

    I actually followed the links to read it for myself thinking perhaps Anthony had been duped by someone. Sadly, this is for real. I summarize it as follows:

    Nothing has changed for 500 years.
    SOUND THE ALARM!

  34. I’m currently reading a book that is a historical survey of the effects of the Coumbian Exchange, and just got to the part where the shift to mono-agriculture began, so he has to explain nitrogen to the layman:

    “Fertilizer is, at base, a mechanism for providing nitrogen to plants. Plants need nitrogen to make chlorophyll. . . . Nitrogen is also a key building block for both DNA and the proteins assembled by DNA. Although more than 3/4 of the atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, from a plant’s point of view nitrogen is scarce — the gas is made from 2 nitrogen atoms that cling to each other so tightly that plants cannot split them apart for use.”

    1493 by Charles C. Mann, page 212.

    He goes on to talk about nitrites and nitrates — nothing earth shattering. I just thought it an odd coincidence that I got to that part of the book just a few moments before seeing this article.

    Although as other has also pointed out, scientific terms don’t always mean the same thing as their standard colloquial use. In chemical terms oxygen is a poison, after all, in spite of being necessary for most life as it currently exists. I must re-check the definition of “pollutant” now, I suppose.

  35. Humans aren’t “producing more nitrogen”. Humans can’t produce anything. They can repackage what already exists in the natural world. Humans can’t “produce” energy, they unlock the potential energy that already exists. Humans are using nitrogen that already exists and redirecting it as fertilizer. Surprise, its being re-absorbed by the planet from which it originally came from.

  36. The whole thing about fertiliser “polluting” the landscape in a big way is such BS. Fertiliser is so expensive there is no way we could afford to have any excess to wash off. At current sheep and cattle prices in our area of Australia we can’t justify using it and have reducing production. Our whole continent is nutrient poor. I get cranky when I hear these catch phrases in the media about fertilisers polluting rivers because of farming. Only places I know of where waterways are affected by high nutrient loads it is from urban and city areas – where the preachers come from who blame the farmers for it.

  37. Plants excrete oxygen.
    If there were no plants on Earth there would be virtually no free oxygen in the atmosphere, so;

    Oxygen is a pollutant.

    Plants are a life form, so;
    Life forms cause pollution, so;

    Get over it!

  38. Bryan A says:
    March 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Doesn’t DiHydrogen Monoxide cover about 78% of the Earth too?
    Yes and that’s not the worst of it. It is the number one green house gas.

  39. “People have been really interested in nitrogen in current times because it’s a major pollutant”

    NITROGEN?

    That stuff that comprises 78% of the atmosphere?

    According to my calendar, it’s over a week to the First of April.

    Does the Kansas State University run to a different time scale or something?

    Yes, it’s definitely “worse than we thought”.

  40. Without all that “nitrogen” man is currently producing, mankind would starve! You would think someone in Kansas State University’s College of Agricultural would point this out to this idiot assistant professor of geography. Any graduates of this university following this post should immediately contact there alma mater and report this lunatic.

  41. I see a nitrogen tax in our future if this nutty idea takes hold

    The nitrogen tax already exists in some European counties. In France it is called TGAP. Its effectiveness is essentially zero.

  42. In other news, the University of Kansas was called in to help investigate exploding vegetables in supermarkets across the country.

    “At first we thought it was some sort of terrorist plot,” said Professor C. Lueless of the university’s Department of Quackriculture (and off shoot of the Department of Agriculture which also studies various fowl species such as ducks). “What we suspect is that this is a pollution problem. Farmers have been using Potassium Nitrate as a fertilizer for years. Our initial investigation shows that Potassium Nitrate is used in the manufacture of gun powder, and this may be the root cause.”

    The professor was quick to silence critics of his theory who pointed out that gun powder is also composed of carbon and sulfur.

    “Well of course,” said Dr Lueless. “That’s why we started regulating sulfur and carbon emissions in the first place. We knew it could be hazardous to the environment, and now we have evidence of that. We’ll need more study to know for certain, but given that plants are known to uptake carbon in particular in a big way, we think we’re on the right track. Pollution may be causing these incidents of exploding vegetables.”

    Reporters also pressed Dr C. Lueless on the arrest of a group of teenagers that included his son and who have been charged with the theft of several thousand fire crackers, but the professor refused to comment on the matter.

  43. Is there anything these people would not call a pollutant? It used to be that a pollutant was a substance that harmed human health. It was something we would want to remove as completely as possible from the air we breath. By that definition CO2 and nitrogen are not pollutants because we would die without them in our atmosphere. But now the definition of “pollutant” is changing. It is beginning to mean almost the opposite of what it used to mean, and things that are beneficial to humans are now considered to be pollutants. It seems to stem from the Malthusian idea that humans are unchecked parasites. Anything that benefits such parasites is harmful to the rest of the planet and is thus a pollutant.

  44. princessartemis says:
    March 21, 2013 at 11:52 am
    I’m waiting for them to deem oxygen a pollutant.
    —————-

    Err, that would be ozone, deemed a pollutant at ground level.

  45. What with all of these post-doctorals writing these non-sense studies? These poor kids minds have been so badly molested by our modern Marxist school system that they can’t tell the difference between science and political activism. But I bet they all vote correctly and think the right (left) way about the issues, because they care soooo much.

  46. There are no limits to these rent-seeking idiots venality, dishonesty and corruption. What is their next objective? Will we live to see ‘Water and Oxygen’ nominated as “major pollutants”?

  47. Climate “science” now comes with extra dumb.

    These tyrants will stop at nothing to corrupt the method, the data and the rest of humanity with their insanity.

  48. Imprecise terminology. Is “nitrogen” molecular nitrogen, nitrogen oxide(s), ammonia or what? Is this a peer-reviewed publication? Science is a wonderful pursuit, maybe someone ought to introduce these guys to it.

  49. Well, y’know… when the deadly Carbon combines with the deadly Nitrogen, it’s ummmm… deadly!

  50. Did someone open up a cylinder of nitrous oxide in the lab, or are they just having a laugh?

    Which gas will they pick on next?

  51. “Roughly 15,000 years ago, the Earth began to warm, melting many glaciers and ice sheets that covered the landscape. Researchers found that Earth experienced an 8,000-yearlong decline in nitrogen availability as temperatures rose and carbon and nitrogen became locked up in soils. According to researchers, how the nitrogen cycle responded to these ancient global changes in carbon dioxide could be a glimpse into the future.”
    ====================
    I don’t get the “locked up” part, the glaciers just bull-dozed the biosphere into a giant compost pile being watered with glacial run-off.
    I imagine a lot of it burned, and/ or flourished in the warmth.
    At a glimpse, it seems like a reach.

  52. Perhaps if we stopped being lazy, most of this silliness would go away. Nitrogen refers to N/2 gas, otherwise, what are we going to call it? Nitrate,( along with ammonia and urea) are essentials for plant growth,and if we just call them nitrogen then discussions of the complexities of nurture and pollution become mere sloganism, as in referring to processes leeching away the world’;s “nitrogen”; hey, only 80% of the atmosphere.
    I have heard of eutrophication due to lack of oxygen in aquatic systems when there is an overgrowth of blue-green algae that can make their own nitrates from atm. nitrogen; overgrowth of algae on parts of the Great Barrier Reef due? to nitrates in agricultural runoff. Then there is the wonderful greening of vegetetion after fallout of nitrates formed during thunderstorms. But these are hardly global issues. This is more vexatious than using the term “carbon” for any compound containing carbon especially carbon dioxide. My students used to ask me why I used so many “big” words and my reply was that I wished to convey a precise meaning. Meaningful debates are turned into eggregious arguments by confusing terminology as much as by antagonistic attitudes. Call me a pedantic old fart, but I would love to see clear meanings and where better to start than on this most important site.

  53. I will now add nitrogen as those dangerous things I’m avoiding like diydrogen monoxide. Both are awful pollutants. Once causes the bends, and the other, well, the other has so many bad aspects it’s amazing it’s not already banned. I’m sure it’ll be next.

    http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

  54. I guess this idiot somehow managed to miss the CO2 bandwagon and now wants a bandwagon of his very own.

  55. I throw my arms up in the air!

    Nitrogen is 79% of the atmosphere.

    It is a fundamental part of life – Carbon-Hydrogen-Oxygen-Nitrogen CHON. This planet is populated by CHON lifeforms.

    Nitrogen is also a member of that criminal cartel – the periodic table of elements.

    It appears that many members of this criminal conspiracy must be banned.

    I humbly request of the eco-scientistas what elements are acceptable.

    I throw up!

  56. These people must be really stupid. When ammonia, ammonium nitrate or urea is produced for fertilisers it is cryo concentrated from the air! If it eventually finds its way back there then there is no net gain.

  57. MY comment didn’t seem to make it, go lost in the ether. I cannot reproduce it but can paraphrase it:

    What member of the criminal periodic table are we allowed to consider benificent, oh mighty guardians of reality?

    Grrr###

  58. Nitrogen huh. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any dumber…

    I mean, think about this for a second. Giving it our very capitalist greedy best, we’re only able to increase atmospheric CO2 by an apparent 2 PPM per year, or 0.0002%. So lets say for the sake of argument that we outdo ourselves, and increase atmospheric N2 by 100 times that amount every year. Somehow. Over the course of a millenia, we’d increase atmospheric CO2 by 0.2%. This impacts us exactly how again?

    I don’t think anyone really believes there’d be an impact. I think Kendra and crew have realized that if they keep up a concentrated barrage of stupidity like this long enough they’ll cause people’s heads to explode, I think that’s really the masterplan. Record me as a conspiracy nut and write it down in your blue error log if you want, I don’t care. What is it the warmists say about CO2? Can’t think of any other explanation, that’s it.

  59. Referencing the image at the top – BOC plant. Stands for British Oxygen Company. I got a frown from a BOC employee once for revealing this. Never understood why, but maybe they have the gift of prophecy ?
    CO2 as a pollutant is not panning out too well. Amazing that N2 at around 78% and relatively inert should become a candidate. Maybe they have already checked out the other trace gases? Argon 9,340 ppmv, Neon 18.18 ppmv, Helium 5.24 ppmv? /sarc

  60. Mark Bofill says:

    > Nitrogen huh. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any dumber…

    It could. Wait until it occurs to them to learn about the provenance of all oxygen in the air. They are bound to discover the moment in history when our not-so-distant green cousins invaded this natural and perfectly balanced anaerobic planet and exterminated most of the “God’s species” on it, killing them off with their toxic waste, oxygen. Those species were lost forever! Where is climate justice?

  61. But wait then I have a solution for you! What would you say to a fuel that compared to the average air emissions from coal produces half the CO2, less than a third of the nitrogen oxides, and 1% of the sulfur oxides and almost none of the mercury?

    I give you natural gas. Oh what? That’s no good either? Why? Oh the fracking bothers you. Well then I have door number 2 for you! A fuel that has next to no emmissions! LFTR technology! Oh what? That’s no good either? Why? Oh it is that “nuclear” word and a level of tech you can’t comprehend so it must be bad.

    Sheesh. There is just no pleasing some people. :)

  62. … and let us not forget evil oxygen, the instigator of oxidation damage and rust throughout the world. We are surely doomed!

  63. Ah yes the smell of burnt Nitrocellulose and Nitro Glycerine. AKA smokeless gunpowder.
    Buy your ammunition if you can find it.

  64. “They are bound to discover the moment in history when our not-so-distant green cousins invaded this natural and perfectly balanced anaerobic planet and exterminated most of the “God’s species” on it, killing them off with their toxic waste, oxygen. Those species were lost forever! Where is climate justice?”

    Hopefully they won’t learn about it from someone who knew members of the preceding species personally.

    (Larry Niven; “The Green Plague”)

  65. Robert of Ottawa says:
    March 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    MY comment didn’t seem to make it, go lost in the ether. I cannot reproduce it but can paraphrase it:

    What member of the criminal periodic table are we allowed to consider benificent, oh mighty guardians of reality?

    Grrr###

    *

    My guess is, everything is okay, providing it is in perfect balance set by nature. Anything we “filthy humans” touch changes the balance. No matter what. That’s why woodchips in power stations are okay (for now) because the trees are giving back what they stored. Anything humans produce, say through industry, is a no-no. Don’t worry, they’ll get around to our breathing last of all. Before then, they’ll ban all windmills and solar panels – but only after we’ve allowed everything else to go and we *ahem* rely on them. Those woodchips would have long been not allowed by then, and they’ll start looking at how many breaths we take. We’ll be easy to find, too, because by then we won’t be allowed to step on the living planet for fear of impinging on some ecosystem, so we will be locked in special cages and not allowed to breed.

  66. I, for one, will be telling everyone that you guys will not emphasize that the atmosphere has O2 in it and how ‘big oil’ uses O.

  67. Increased atmospheric CO2 and reduced soil fertility associated with reduced soil nitrate may well have common causes, but that should not imply that nitrogen cycling in the terrestrial biosphere responds to changes in carbon cycling as the authors of the Nature Letter have assumed.

  68. Like the redefinition of so many other common words and phrases, the left has redefined “pollutant” to be anything anthropogenically produced. If it’s produced in any other way it is okay, part of nature. This goes along with the beliefs of many of them that humans are apart from the environment, like alien invaders. And they wonder why we call their environmental beliefs a religion?

  69. Look on the bright side, people. They are clearly running out of elements to pick on as “pollutants.”

    Helium should be last.

  70. Max Hugoson says:
    March 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm
    “You cannot OUTLAW STUPIDITY!”

    But you can award it a Phd and a professorship. The grants they have to get on their own from equally stupid people.

  71. So they found that when it gets warm and CO2 then rises, plants grow better and that growing plants consume “nitrogen” (that I presume really means nitrates). Isn’t that something every Ag student and gardener knows? That growing plants like warmth, grow more then, and consume more fertilizers?

    Sheesh…

    And somehow they try to get that packaged as a Big Scare…

  72. Anthony you say” I see a nitrogen tax in our future if this nutty idea takes hold.” We already have this lunacy in the UK where we have an environmental tax on industrial gases as they are released into the environment I now pay more for my welding nitrogen/argon mix and oxygen for this mad idea of saving the environment from something that was removed from it. But as we know industry is bad.
    James Bull

  73. How about we all jump up and down pretending that this is about all sorts of things other than that we’re producing a lot of nitrogen fertilizers, and that these chemicals are pollutants if they reach high concentrations in waterways.

    I see a nitrogen tax in our future if this nutty idea takes hold.

    There are restrictions of excessive nitrogen fertilizer use in many countries.

  74. Oh dear. These geniuses have apparently rediscovered the interglacial vegetation/nutrient cycle first described by the danish botanist Iversen 60 years ago, but without understanding it. Every interglacial starts out with fresh, nutrient rich high pH-mineral soils created by glacial erosion and distributed by strong glacial winds. The plants start growing and gradually locks up the nutrients while decaying plant matter makes the soil more and more acid.
    Finally the now nutrient-poor acid soils are bulldozed away by the next glaciation and the whole thing starts over

  75. @ Andrew: you are missing the point. The quotes say “nitrogen” not nitrates or nitrogen fertilizer. This leaves the uneducated or unsophisticated reader with the impression that all nitrogen is bad. This is appalling coming from a scientist.

    Now, I do not support the excess use of nitrogen fertilizers, but the excess run-off is not a pollutant to algae, Algae loves it. Unfortunately too much algae growth depletes oxygen in the water and other life forms do not do well then. However and unlike deniers, I am not an algae bigot and I’m forming the Gaea Algae Society (Gas) and we Gassers want more nitrogen! This movement is for the little wee algae children, of course, and to stop global warming.

  76. Looking at the accompanying photograph, they’ve followed the same route as the critics of fossil fuel power station use, hoping stupid Joe Public won’t know the difference between steam and smoke. In this case, what we see is nitrogen from liquified air going back into the air; net effect zero.

  77. Is there a psychiatrist, or other practising brain doctor, among the commenters here? It would be fascinating to see a professional analysis of the bizarre thought patterns and world view exhibited in papers like this.

  78. Oh well. This can’t be any more ridiculous than the NSF dropping $395,000 on Yale University to study male duck genitalia.

  79. 78.09% by volume of Earth’s atmosphere is a pollutant. [Nitrogen]

    0.039 per cent by volume of Earth’s atmosphere is a pollutant. [Co2]

    The EPA sees Co2 as a toxin and Al Gore sees it as pollution. The numbers above really makes one wonder about the sanity of these idiots.

  80. mkelly says:
    March 21, 2013 at 11:27 am
    ……………Here’s a listing of the key components of the lower atmosphere
    Nitrogen – 78.084%
    Oxygen – 20.95%
    ……………….So is oxygen a minor pollutant?………….

    Of course it is because co2 which is 0.039 per cent by volume of Earth’s atmosphere has been declared a pollutant and a toxin. According to Warmists co2 is not plant food but a Satanic gas. /sarc

  81. Here is the co2 pollutant at work. See how it ravages greenery. There really is no hope left for humanity.

  82. This whole charade is caused by a lack of Oxygen – flowing in the brains of those who propose this idiotic theory. Grant monies notwithstanding……..

    Simples.

  83. Seeing as we are now onto declaring co2 and nitrogen as pollutants whey the heck stop there?

    Oxygen > free radicals > cell damage = toxic pollutant

    Water vapour > biggest greenhouse gas = air pollution

    Water > drink too much = water poisoning

    As you can see we must act now and reduce these dangerous, life threatening toxins.

  84. “Roughly 15,000 years ago, the Earth began to warm, melting many glaciers and ice sheets that covered the landscape. Researchers found that Earth experienced an 8,000-yearlong decline in nitrogen availability as temperatures rose and carbon and nitrogen became locked up in soils. According to researchers, how the nitrogen cycle responded to these ancient global changes in carbon dioxide could be a glimpse into the future.”

    So let’s stop and think for a minute all you paleoclumsytoglyists at Potassium Sulfur Uranium (What else could KSU stand for. Sure couldn’t be a real university.) If the amount of atmospheric nitrogen decreased as atmospheric carbon dioxide increased it has to mean that CO2 is beneficial for maintaining a stable atmosphere. As long as we increase the CO2 along with the N2 all is well. In fact we probably need to massively increase CO2 in order to lower the N2 levels to an ideal level. Let’s get busy folks.

    After all, humans were in control of setting the ratio of atmospheric gasses, were they not? Couldn’t have anything to do with the nitrogen fixing plants flourishing as the earth warmed out of an ice age. And that somehow as more plants grew in a warmer climate that more nitrogen was fixed in the soil and became available for non-nitrogen fixing plants to use. Couldn’t be that. Here is a partial list of native plants in California that fix nitrogen in the soil. Keep in mind that these plants love nitrogen and as a result hate the over educated nincompoops at Potassium Sulfur U who want to demonize it and take it away.

    Acacia greggii- Cat Claw Acacia
    Amorpha californica,Amorpha fruticosa False Indigo
    Astragalus nuttallii Locoweed
    Calliandra eriophylla- Fairy Duster
    Cercidium floridum ,Cercidium microphyllum – Palo Verde
    Cercis occidentalis – Redbud
    Dalea- Indigo Bush
    Hoita-(or Psoralea orbicularis) Leather Root
    Lupinus (all), Lupine
    Marina parryi- Marina
    Olneya tesota- Ironwood
    Pickeringia- Chaparral Pea
    Prosopis(all)- Mesquite
    Psorothamnus spinosus, Smoke Tree
    Trifolium- Clover

    Some California native non-legumes that fix nitrogen are:

    Alnus rhombifolia,-Alnus rubra-Alder
    Cercocarpus(all),- Mountain Mahogany
    Ceanothus (all) California Lilac
    Chamaebatia- Mountain Misery
    Myrica- Bayberry
    Purshia- Antelope Bush, Bitter Brush, or Cliffrose
    Sheperdia- Buffaloberry

    Yes! The past is a glimpse of the future. Mock the over educated and underthinking! Mock them until the abandon the stupid idea to reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen to levels that are deleterious to the 3% of the plantlife on earth on which every animal depends for our very existence. Mock them over and over, without remorse and without pause until they go away to Walmart and get honest jobs within their abilities. Like greeters. Or cart boys and girls. But now I’ve gone to insulting Walmart folks. And that wasn’t my intent. Keep mocking. Keep exposing the ridiculous by using the absurd extension of stupid ideas and thinly disguised power and money grabs.

    Cheers,
    pbh

  85. “That was one of the really surprising findings,” Craine said. “As the world was getting warmer and experiencing higher carbon dioxide levels than it had in the past, just like we are currently experiencing,………..

    But I was told that co2 rise comes before temperature rise. Oh, never mind.

  86. You skeptics are totally off base. When are you going to realize that nitrogen is LETHAL! Try breathing 100% nitrogen and see what that gets you. Crosses over your eyes. We need to ban nitrogen IMMEDIATELY! Wait, not ban it, TAX it! That’s the ticket.

    Need I say it? sarc off

  87. Hoiw is this Kendra McKaughlan qualified to teach in a university if she is stupid and ignorant and irrational and arrogant enough to think nitrogen is a pollutant? Is this the kind of education our kids are paying inflated rates of tuition to get? Next you know, water will be called a pollutant. When does this idiocy stop? Methinks only when the colleges and universities AND K-12 schools are purged of this sort of riffraff. They are the real pollutants, poisoning kids’ minds.

  88. Here is co2 alarmism in a nutshell.
    Dihydrogen Monoxide is water.

    ALISO VIEJO, Calif. — City officials were so concerned about the potentially dangerous properties of dihydrogen monoxide that they considered banning foam cups after they learned the chemical was used in their production.

    Then they learned, to their chagrin, that dihydrogen monoxide — H2O for short — is the scientific term for water.
    NBC News
    —–
    Otago MP Jacqui Dean felt like a bit of a “wally” yesterday, after it was revealed she tried to ban North Otago’s most precious commodity – water.

    Mrs Dean has confirmed she was caught in a hoax by an online blogger asking for her help in banning dihydrogen monoxide – which, it turns out, is the chemical name for ordinary H20.
    New Zealand Herald

    Gullibility is the key to the co2 hoax. The more people know the more skeptical they become.

    http://www.dhmo.org/facts.html

  89. The polluting nitrogen is, for example, excess fertilizer runoff into streams – not atmospheric nitrogen. All the authors are saying is that there is no increase in sedimentary nitrogen because the biosphere has used the increase in carbon dioxide to capture the excess reactive nitrogen. No big deal, really.

  90. Robert of Ottawa says:
    March 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm
    …..I humbly request of the eco-scientistas what elements are acceptable.

    Simple:
    Only 4 are acceptable on our planet by those:
    1. Earth
    2. Fire
    3. Water
    4. Air

    Everything else is a chemical and therefore must be bad.

    Remember, they want to re-create an essentially feudal system with themselves as overlords. Feudal systems and knowledgeable populations don’t work. Hence dumb down the masses.

  91. “The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area of hypoxic (link to USGS definition) (less than 2 ppm dissolved oxygen) waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Its area varies in size, but can cover up to 6,000-7,000 square miles……The dead zone is caused by nutrient enrichment from the Mississippi River, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous….”

    http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/index.html

    NOx from fossil burning is another form of nitrogen pollution.

  92. . And nobody ever knew,
    From that dark day to the present,
    Whoso had taken the Pobble’s toes,
    In a manner so far from pleasant.
    Whether the shrimps or crawfish gray,
    Or crafty mermaids stole them away,
    Nobody knew; and nobody knows
    How the Pobble was robbed of his twice five toes!

    Edward Lear

    The team might have spent its funding no worse if it had attempted to research what happened to the Pobble’s toes.

  93. Compost. The Answer is make more compost, lots more. After all, the key to good compost is the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio, aka the Paper to Poop ratio. We already know all that nasty carbon is killing us, and now we know nitrogen is out to get us too.

    We can fix both problems at once by making more compost. And compost makes good plant food.

  94. Reactive Nitrogen is the new CO2- it cycles through the environment in ways that are complex and poorly understood. EPA’s science advisory board is recommending a 25% cut in N loading for the continental US and a disastrous 45% for the Mississippi River basin.
    It is an absolute myth that N was low on the prairies until recently. The combination of fire and hydric soils caused nitrogen fixation to run riot. Nitrogen fixation in water logged soils and 1% straw produces N fixation rates up to 150/kg/ha and 500-1000kg/ha when straw increases to 5 to 20%. Adding manure to the equation can bump fixation rates to over 1300kg/ha.
    KNO3 salts on the prairie killed many of the first domestic cattle. N was so high on the freshly plowed praires that it tool until the 1920s for N to fall low enough to grow wheat.
    N can cycle from inert Ngas to ammonia to nitrate and back again to N2 gas. Nitrate is pretty mobile so can be lost from a system and N retention in the soils is not straightforward.
    The nitrate buildup is what made prairie fire so feared by early settlers.

    An investigation by Mayo(1895) found that cornstalks contained 18.8% pottasium nitrate by dry weight! Mayo wrote,
“Upon splitting a corn stalk, the crystals in the pith of the stalk could easily be seen with the unaided eye…. On lighting a bit of stalk with a match, it would deflagrate, burning rapidly like the fuse of a fire cracker.” Its why one person stayed awake at all times on the early prairies.

  95. They don’t seem to a clue about the Nitrogen Cycle they write about. The vast majority of available (fixed) nitrogen is created by bacteria. On land, symbiotic bacteria in the soil feed on sugar from plant roots and fix N2 from the air. Available nitrogen increases along with plant growth. Where’s the problem?

  96. OK, let’s make a variety of things clear here. Oxygen IS simultaneously good and bad, even in biology. It is good, as we basically “burn” carbon and hydrogen locked up in starches and proteins in the Krebs cycle. It is “bad” as oxygen also “burns” our DNA and causes oxidative damage that is associated with aging and cancer. Our bodies have all sorts of naturally produced anti-oxidants, and as you get older it is a generally good idea to supplement them as one of many ways we are evolutionarily programmed to die is that our natural antioxidant metabolic protection decreases with age. We could walk through the processes and places where sulfur compounds (“thiones”) like glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid both catalyze the Krebs cycle and act as heavy metal chelators and general antioxidants that protect the cells and in particular cellular DNA while facilitating mitochondrial function, but the point is that living in pure oxygen would probably kill us in fairly short order, even as living in an atmosphere with too little oxygen would. Oxygen is one of the many factors that helps kill you even as it helps keep you alive.

    Nitrogen, too, is both essential and a pest. Straight N_2 is nearly inert and is a non-factor, useless to plant and animals and basically all it does is to ensure that we don’t breathe straight O_2 which is a generally good thing. However, nitrogen is also an essential biological building block, the amine in amino acid, the differentiating ingredient in proteins as opposed to carbohydrate starches. To get biologically accessible nitrogen, it has to be combined with something else, as N_2 straight up is inert and virtually impossible for biological entities to use given their molecular energy resources.

    The nitrogen cycle thus begins with lightning. Lightning is hot enough that it splits N_2 and O_2 and actually burns the nitrogen, producing e.g. NO and NO_2 (and Ozone, O_3). These, in turn combine with water in the atmosphere to form H_2NO_2 (Nitrous Acid) and H_2NO_3 (Nitric Acid). The former is a weak acid, but an important factor in aerosol chemistry and the tropospheric ozone cycle (it grabs an O from O_3 to make Nitric Acid). Nitric Acid is a strong acid, but one that in a typically dilute form in thunderstorm rain is absolutely essential to life. It falls in rain, enters the soil, is fixed by friendly bacteria in the form of biologically accessible nitrates, and becomes “fertilizer”. A lot of plant growth IS nitrogen limited, especially in some species of food crops, and hence many/most fertilizers contain a strong nitrate component (in some cases high enough to permit the fertilizer to be used to make a class of nitrate compounds that form powerful explosives).

    High concentrations of H2NO_3 are dangerous — a component of “acid rain”, although this is primarily sulphuric acid downrange of high-sulfur coal burning. Low concentrations are fertilizer and essential to life. Sulfur-bearing compounds are essential to life, but too much of them is bad. Oxygen is good, oxygen is bad. It’s all about balance.

    So there is nothing wrong with the research, or even the conclusions. Don’t interpret everything as an attack on sanity. Balance is important, and the Earth doesn’t, in fact, balance things perfectly automatically. It fluctuates all over the place.

    rgb

  97. Nitrogen is also dangerous stuff. Ammonium Nitrate is a constituent in almost all industrial explosives. Trinitrotoluene is/was a major military explosive. Nitro-glycerine was a common industrial explosive; I could go on.
    We have to be careful about this stuff.
    /sarc

  98. The commenters here seem to be rather reactionary, but as several people pointed out, the press release is so poorly written…

    The actual paper looks interesting, from the abstract:

    ” We analysed published records of stable nitrogen isotopic values (δ15N) in sediments from 86 lakes on six continents. Here we show that the value of sedimentary δ15N declined from 15,000 years before present to 7,056 ± 597 years before present, a period of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and terrestrial carbon accumulation2.”

    This is rather amazing in that it seems it took the biosphere about 8,000 years to recover from the ice age. This must be all the forests growing up from where there had only been ice before (there were glaciers in Quebec only 5,000 ybp IIRC) The CO2 increase must have been from the uncovered soils and the terrestrial carbon accumulation from the recovering biosphere. Amazing.

    They also say that the nitrogen balance has been constant for the last 500 years. Everything else about the future impacts is just window dressing.

    Climate change is a given. You can either get warmer or colder. Why anyone would choose colder is a mystery to me. This paper provides another perspective on why colder is not optimal for the biosphere.

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