Friday, April 22, 2011

Nitrogen pollution costs are revealed: Europe

Nitrogen pollution is costing every person in Europe up to £650 a year in damage to water, climate, health and wildlife, a major new study warned today.

Scientists behind the research said nitrogen was needed as fertiliser to help feed a growing world population - but suggested that eating less meat could reduce the amount of pollution caused by agriculture.

The report also suggests that with 60% of costs of the nitrogen damage stemming from fossil fuels burnt for energy generation and transport, more energy efficient homes and cutting long distance travel could also help tackle the problem.

More efficient use of fertilisers in food production is also needed, the report said.

However, the researchers stopped short of calling for a fertiliser tax to reduce the use of nitrogen in agriculture.

The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) chief scientist Professor Bob Watson, who welcomed the first assessment of the Europe-wide impacts of nitrogen, warned that higher costs as a result of a tax would be passed onto consumers.

The report by 200 experts from 21 countries warns that in Europe, the costs of nitrogen pollution on air, soils, water, increased greenhouse gases and damage to wildlife was between 70 billion euro and 320 billion euro a year (£62 billion-£282 billion).

The cost works out at between £130 and £650 a year for everyone in Europe. (read more)