Excessive nitrogen harms the economy and environment (Video)

April 18, 2011

The problem of nitrogen pollution is not limited to New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary. “Nitrogen is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century,” according to this new video summarizing the findings of the European Nitrogen Assessment.

Excessive nitrogen harms the economy and environment – Press Release:

A major new study finds that nitrogen pollution is costing each person in Europe around £130 – £650 (€150 – €740 Euros) a year. The first European Nitrogen Assessment (ENA) will be launched at a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday 11 April.

The study, carried out by 200 experts from 21 countries and 89 organizations, estimates that the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen across Europe is £60 – £280 billion (€70 -320 billion), more than double the extra income gained from using nitrogen fertilizers in European agriculture.

Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), welcomed the report. He said, “The assessment emphasizes how nitrogen links the different environmental issues that we have come to know so well: climate, biodiversity, air, water, and soil pollution.  It develops the vision for a more holistic approach, which is vital if we are to make progress in tackling these issues.”

The ENA is the first time that the multiple threats of nitrogen pollution, including contributions to climate change and biodiversity loss, have been valued in economic terms at a continental scale.  As well as identifying key threats the assessment also identifies the geographical areas at greatest risk of damage by nitrogen pollution.  The report provides EU policymakers with a comprehensive scientific assessment on the consequences of failing to address the problem of nitrogen pollution – and outlines key actions that can be taken to reduce the problem to protect environmental and public health.

Key messages from the assessment include:

– At least ten million people in Europe are potentially exposed to drinking water with nitrate concentrations above recommended levels.

– Nitrates cause toxic algal blooms and dead zones in the sea, especially in the North, Adriatic and Baltic seas and along the coast of Brittany.

– Nitrogen-based air pollution from agriculture, industry and traffic in urban areas contributes to particulate matter air pollution, which is reducing life expectancy by several months across much of central Europe.

– In the forests atmospheric nitrogen deposition has caused at least 10% loss of plant diversity over two-thirds of Europe.

The lead editor of the ENA, Dr Mark Sutton from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “Nearly half the world’s population depends on synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizer for food but measures are needed to reduce the impacts of nitrogen pollution. Solutions include more efficient use of fertilizers and manures, and people choosing to eat less meat. We have the know-how to reduce nitrogen pollution, but what we need now is to apply these solutions throughout Europe in an integrated way.”

Dr Hans van Grinsven, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and lead author of the ENA cost-benefit analysis on nitrogen in the environment, said, “The present environmental costs of nitrogen for Europe are very high. Our analysis shows that the financial benefits resulting from abatement of nitrogen problems will outweigh the costs of many of the available measures.  We conclude that this will be true also for agriculture, even taking into account the benefits of nitrogen fertilizer for farm income and food production.”

The ENA is being launched at start of the week-long ‘Nitrogen and Global Change‘ conference in Edinburgh.  The Assessment was conducted through a network of projects supported by the European Commission and the European Science Foundation, and reports to the ‘Air Convention’ of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

To accompany the ENA launch a commentary by Dr Mark Sutton will be published in Nature on April 11 outlining why curbing nitrogen emissions is a central environmental challenge for the twenty-first century.

Notes to Editors

Further information for journalists can be obtained from the CEH press office.

The ENA will be formally launched on 11 April, the first day of the Nitrogen and Global Change 2011 conference being held at the EICC in Edinburgh (11 to 15 April 2011). The launch will start with a keynote speech by Professor Bob Watson, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. More details of timings and location are available in the conference programme: http://www.nitrogen2011.org/webfm_send/42  (page 3).

The European Nitrogen Assessment is being published by Cambridge University Press. More details www.cambridge.org/9781107006126.

The 4 minute long official launch video can be watched on Youtube.

The assessment deals with ‘reactive nitrogen’ which includes ammonia, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), nitrogen oxides (NOx) which form acid rain and smog, and nitrates,  as distinct from the ‘inert nitrogen’ which makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere.

The European Nitrogen Assessment has been prepared through coordinated action led by the Nitrogen in Europe (NinE) Research Networking Programme of the European Science Foundation, the NitroEurope Integrated Project supported by European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme, and the COST Action 729.

The Assessment is a contribution to the work of the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen (TFRN), led by the UK and the Netherlands, in support of the long-term goals of the UN-ECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). In parallel, the Assessment represents a European contribution to the work of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a joint project of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), providing evidence to underpin many United Nations and other multi-lateral agreements.

The ENA has been conducted as a scientifically independent process. The views and conclusions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect policies of the contributing organizations.

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Rain Barrel Workshop in Exeter, NH

April 13, 2011

Exeter, NH – The New Hampshire Coastal Protection Partnership and ReVision Energy are teaming up to offer a low cost rain barrel workshop to seacoast residents on May 7th. Come “Make your own rain barrel” for just $50 and enjoy free water all spring and summer long! The fun kicks off at 10 AM at ReVision Energy’s new store on Commercial Drive in Exeter.

“We’re excited about partnering with NH Coast and about welcoming people to our new solar showroom,” says ReVision Energy branch manager Dan Clapp. “We love being able to offer a hands-on event where people can learn about water conservation, which, like solar, is a way to help the environment and reduce energy costs at the same time.”

A member of the Green Alliance, ReVision Energy has completed more than 2,500 solar installations in Maine and New Hampshire, including commercial solar hot water systems for apartment buildings, restaurants, inns, and fitness centers. Water heating can account for 14%-25% of home energy consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar hot water systems capture the power of the sun and use it to heat water, reducing household reliance on fossil fuels.

“Nationwide, about 4% of U.S. power generation is used for water supply and treatment,” notes Dave Anderson, Project Coordinator for NH Coast. That’s where rain barrels come in.

“Rain barrels are a zero energy source of free non-potable water,” Anderson explains. “I use my rain barrel to do everything from watering the garden to filling a bucket to wash windows.”

Lawns and gardens can soak up around 40% water used by a household during the summer months, creating a real strain on municipal water supplies. Rain barrels provide an eco-friendly alternative to water drawn from local reservoirs. The green benefits don’t stop there.

“Installing a rain barrel is one way to take a slice out of your stormwater footprint, especially if set up the overflow outlet to drain into a dry well or rain garden” Anderson explains. Stormwater runoff can quickly transform into runoff pollution, carrying everything from leaked motor oil to nitrogen from dog poop into local waterways like the Exeter River – a major tributary to the Great Bay Estuary.

NH Coast launched its popular Rain Barrel Program last year with the help of a small grant from the Lamprey River Advisory Committee. Anderson visited local farmers’ markets in Newmarket and Nottingham, giving away free rain barrels and teaching market goers how to build their own at home. NH Coast staff and volunteers make each rain barrel by hand from a recycled food grade plastic drum.

The program has proved to be a big hit. “We’ve received a ton of support from local businesses this year,” Anderson is happy to report. Altus Energy, D.F. Richard Energy, Greenovations, and  Ecomovement Hauling and Consulting sponsored the local nonprofit’s latest round of free rain barrel giveaways at the Seacoast Home and Garden Show in Durham last month. A $1,000 grant from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund will also ensure that the program gets off to a great start in 2011.

In addition to hosting the May 7th workshop, ReVision Energy is sponsoring the event. The first ten participants who sign up for the workshop online will go home with a free rain barrel. To RSVP, visit http://rainbarrelnh.eventbrite.com or call Dave at (603) 617-0679.

NH Coast board member Joe Persechino builds a rain barrel at the Newmarket Farmers' Market.

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