Bill Gates ‘Just Plain Wrong’ About Chemical Fertilizers, Scientists Say • Children’s Health Defense

new research suggests that the climate impacts of excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers is much worse than previously estimated. Researchers estimate that the N-fertilizer supply chain is contributing more than six times the greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by the entire commercial aviation sector.

By all accounts, food and agriculture are barely on the agenda of the UN climate summit, even though food systems contribute about one-third of GHGs. Direct emissions from food production account for about one-third of that, with the principal source being livestock, mostly methane and manure emissions.

Some leaches off the soil or volatilizes into gas when it is applied. The cumulative effect is the release of nitrous oxide, a GHG 265 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

If Gates and AGRA get their way and Africa approaches current global averages of 137 kg/ha of N fertilizer, Africa would contribute 800% more, an additional 50 Mt in 2050, equivalent to the emissions from deforesting half a million hectares of Amazon rainforest (about 1.2 million acres). Cumulative GHGs would be 750 Mt by 2050.

The scientists who authored the new report make three recommendations to reduce GHGs associated with N fertilizer use. All call into question Gates’ Green Revolution model for Africa:

  • Select a model of agriculture that does not depend on synthetic fertilizers — intercropping with nitrogen-fixing crops has been shown to increase yields and improve soils.
  • Reintegrate livestock into crop farming so more of the nutrients in manure are returned to the land — less than half are now.
  • Limit the growth of industrial livestock production and consumption. Three-quarters of N fertilizer worldwide is used to produce livestock feed.

Bill Gates ‘Just Plain Wrong’ About Chemical Fertilizers, Scientists Say • Children’s Health Defense