Ottawa plan to cut fertilizer emissions must include reduction in use, study says
OTTAWA — Canada can’t cut fertilizer emissions 30 % by 2030 without cutting actual fertilizer usage, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s contrary insistence, according to a recent report by researchers at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.
In March, Trudeau decried online “misinformation” and assured the Canadian Federation of Agriculture that his government was consulting with farmers on a reduction in fertilizer emissions and “not in the use of fertilizers.” Trudeau also said the initiative would be voluntary, not mandatory.
However, the plan won’t work without cutting fertilizer usage because the government lacks the necessary data and an emissions measurement system to otherwise hit the target, according to the authors of a new report, Planning to Fail: A Case Study of Canada’s Fertilizer Based Emission Target.
While the plan has “laudable” elements, the authors observe that a 30 % emissions cut by 2030 is “impossible without reductions in nitrogen fertilizer, an action strongly opposed by producers and counter to the targets goal.”
Curtailing actual fertilizer usage by even 20 % could cost Canadian grain and oilseed growers nearly $48 billion in lost sales because of lower yields over the next eight years, according to a 2021 study commissioned by Fertilizer Canada.
The Trudeau regime’s “first attempt at developing an emission target for the Ag sector cannot be viewed as a success by any measure,” the latest report concludes. The researchers add it’s unlikely the government will fix the plan’s underlying problems by 2030, though it’s still possible to set “well-defined, measurable and achievable targets” for 2050.
A federal fertilizer working group was set up earlier this year, and one of its goals is to make improvements in the measurement of fertilizer emissions.
The Liberals have set their sights on reducing fertilizer emissions as part of their 2020 climate action plan. It’s driven by the pledge to radically reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels, by 2030 – toward net zero by 2050 – under the Paris climate agreement. Agriculture contributes 10 % of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and an Agriculture and Agri-food Canada discussion paper has pointedly asserted that nitrous oxide emitted by nitrogen fertilizer is up to 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a GHG.
In today’s world almost everything seems to depend on context and who you talk to.
Since Canada has now targeted nitrous oxide emissions in fertilizer, Farmers Forum has spoken with leading expert, Dr. David Legates, former professor of climatology in the department of geography and spatial sciences at the University of Delaware, who has co-developed methods to correct bias in gauge-measure precipitation data that affects climate change impact studies. Yes, nitrous oxide is increasing in the atmosphere, he said. So, did Canada get the restrictions right? If nitrous oxide was represented by people, there would be 2,400 of them in a population of 8 billion, meaning they would never, ever, be noticed, even if their numbers doubled or tripled or more, he said.
He argued that fertilizer brings a lot of people out of poverty and highlighted the fertilizer ban in Sri Lanka that last year caused famine, riots, and forced its president to flee. “The left doesn’t know science,” he said.
So, what about the situation in Canada?
“There is no possibility that nitrous oxide is going to increase the temperature of the earth substantially over the next 400 years,” Legates said. “It’s advantageous in that it is produced as a byproduct of fertilizer, which feeds people.”
So, what does he think about governments like Canada slapping on fertilizer restrictions? “I think they are crazy. I think they hate their people.”