CALL ON GOVERNMENTS TO INCLUDE POPULATION IN BIODIVERSITY AGREEMENT
To prevent further biodiversity loss, we must address the impact of our growing human population. Please call on your country’s environment minister to support the inclusion of positive, choice-based population action in the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is the key international agreement protecting global biodiversity. Signatory governments must develop plans to protect biodiversity in their own nations, set targets and coordinate international action. Yet, progress is slow, targets are not being met and leaders are not taking this issue seriously enough.
Not a single one of the Aichi biodiversity targets have been met, in part because they fail to address human population growth, one of the main drivers fuelling the destruction of nature. It’s vital that the new programme of action to replace the Aichi targets addresses population to have any chance of success.
Using the form on this page, you can send a personal message to the environment minister in your country. Simply fill in your details in the Take Action fields and press Next. The suggested text for your message will then appear, with your details and those of the minister from your country filled in. You can amend that text if you wish. Original messages with unique subject lines are normally most effective but there is no need to make changes if you don’t want to – just click the button to send your message when you are ready. If you do amend the text, please keep your message polite and positive. The message the minister receives will include your email address, so you may receive a reply from them.
NB: If your country is not on the list and you have the relevant contact information, please let us know so we can add it.
The president promised to defend abortion rights but the White House was vague on what he can or will do.
President Joe Biden said the new law would “significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.“ | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
09/01/2021 12:53 PM EDT
Updated: 09/01/2021 05:44 PM EDT
President Joe Biden vowed Wednesday to defend abortion rights after the Supreme Court let stand a Texas abortion law that bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.
But the White House has been vague about what the president would, or could, do in the near term. And some abortion rights advocates are calling for a more clear-cut strategy in the wake of the court’s latest move.https://f3f748279202ebfc5b1c11bd4620233c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
“This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century,” Biden said in a statement.https://f3f748279202ebfc5b1c11bd4620233c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Biden added that his administration “will protect and defend” the right established under Roe v Wade, but did not explain what steps, if any, the White House would take. Abortion rights advocates have been in close touch with the White House and Congress and are urging the two branches to develop a strategy in response, particularly as the high court prepares to formally revisit and potentially overturn Roe v. Wade later this year when it hears arguments on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
The Texas state law took effect early Wednesday morning after the Supreme Court decided not to act on an emergency petition from Texas abortion clinics to put the new rule on hold. The new law not only bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, but it also allows Texas citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps facilitate the procedure after six weeks.White House: Texas abortion law ‘blatantly violates’ Roe precedentSharehttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.478.1_en.html#goog_375650986Play Video
Though the Supreme Court could still block the state’s law in the coming days, the Wednesday decision renewed calls for changes to the makeup of the court, and questions about what steps the White House and Democrats could take — if any at all.
Pressed on what the administration plans to do, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said any action by the Justice Department in response to abortion laws will be made independently by the department. Psaki added that the president would continue to call for the “codification of Roe,” through Congress.
But some Democratic lawmakers admitted that legislation to enshrine abortion access is unlikely to garner enough support in the evenly split Senate.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who introduced the House bill protecting abortion access as established in Roe, urged the White House to help woo enough senators to support the bill.
“It’s important for the White House to weigh in…we really are going to need their help to get the votes on the Senate side,” said Chu. “We will need to have all resources available but especially the most powerful voice in land, and that is our President Biden to weigh in on this.”
Biden’s statement was sharply critical of the new law, saying it would “significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.” Many progressive lawmakers and advocates, who have been frustrated with the administration for not being more vocal on the issue up to this point, welcomed what they viewed as a shift in tone.
“It’s the first time that the word ‘abortion’ has been issued by the by the president’s office,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “And the White House has to continue to take an active role in preserving abortion rights in the United States and harness all resources to call for pass The Women’s Health Protection Act and the elimination of the Hyde Amendment.”
Psaki said the president would continue to “push” Congress to act and said there’s “no question” White House officials will be discussing responses to the decision in “conversations with members” and congressional staffers.
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But even if the Democratic majority in the House were to pass legislation codifying abortion access, the Senate presents a major barrier.
“Can we get to 60 in the Senate? I don’t know,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who said the Texas decision effectively “tells a woman that she has no control of her body.”
“Every man who impregnates one of these women should have you-know-what taken off,” Speier quipped. A future decision by the Supreme Court is the best chance of recourse, said Speier.
“[And] the extent to which the courts do not stand up to this probably means the rethinking of the Supreme Court as we know it today,”she added.
A growing number of Democrats have called for changing the number of justices on the Supreme Court to counter its conservative bent, but Biden opposed the idea during the presidential campaign.
The president “will wait” to hear from a Supreme Court reform commission the White House established earlier this year before making any changes to his position.
It also remains unclear if the Justice Department will take any actions in response to state restrictions on abortion access or the Supreme Court’s plans to reexamine Roe. The Congressional Progressive Caucus called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to “explore whatever steps” the department “can take.”
But while the Biden administration hasn’t drawn attention to its work on abortion, it has taken several major actions to undo Trump administration curbs on the procedure. In his first few months in office, Biden rolled back restrictions on abortion pills, reversed bans on funding for Planned Parenthood and overseas groups that provide abortion referrals, and removed hurdles to medical research that uses fetal tissue obtained from abortions.
Abortion rights advocates that have worked closely with the administration are pressing the White House to more aggressively use its bully pulpit and regulatory muscle in light of the Supreme Court’s actions. Destiny Lopez, the co-president of the group All* Above All, said two concrete demands are for the FDA to lift restrictions on distributing abortion pills by telemedicine and by mail, and for Biden to lean more heavily on Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and EACH Woman Act — bills that would bar states from passing laws like Texas’ and provide federal funding to low-income people who want the procedure.
“What I also read into [Biden’s statement] is that they’re deeply committed to this issue and that they’re now finally recognizing that Roe is not enough,” she said. “It never was enough to ensure people can get abortion care where and when we need it. So now we need to work with the administration on a real strategy.”
The change comes as the world’s most populous country grapples with a demographic crisis.
A medical worker takes care of a newborn baby lying inside an incubator on February 11, 2021 in Jingzhou, China.Huang Zhigang / VCG via Getty ImagesAug. 21, 2021, 1:39 PM PDTBy Nicole Acevedo and The Associated Press
China will allow married couples to legally have up to three children amid concerns that the number of working-age people in the world’s most populous country is falling too fast, consequently threatening its hopes of increased prosperity and global influence in the future.
The ceremonial legislature amended the Population and Family Planning Law on Friday as part of a decades-long effort by the ruling Communist Party to dictate the size of families in keeping with political directives.
Xinhua news agency, a Chinese state media organization, reported back in May that the law change had been approved during a Communist Party Politburo meeting chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Communist Party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth. China’s declining birthrate is partially a result of a one-child policy imposed in 1979. The country long touted such policy as a success in preventing 400 million additional births, thus saving resources and helping drive economic growth.
Couples who didn’t abide by the one-child policy faced losing their jobs and being fined. In some cases, mothers were forced to have abortions or be sterilized. A preference for sons also led parents to kill baby girls, leading to a massive imbalance in the sex ratio.
Restrictions in family planning laws were eased for the first time in 2015, allowing families to have up to two children as officials acknowledged the looming consequences of the plummeting birthrate. But that change did little to curb the country’s declining birthrate.
Statistics show that there were 12 million births last year, down from 14.65 million in 2019, an 18 percent decline, continuing China’s descent to a near six-decade low.
At the same time, the number of Chinese people over the age of 60 reached 264 million, accounting for 18.7 percent of the country’s total population in 2020, which is nearly six percentage points higher than in 2010.
During that same time period, China’s working-age population fell to 63.3 percent of the total from 70.1 percent a decade ago.
A combination of these trends has caused an overwhelming fear that China will grow old before it becomes wealthy.
At its session Friday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress canceled the leveling of fines for breaking the earlier restrictions and called for additional parental leave and childcare resources. New measures in finance, taxation, schooling, housing and employment should be introduced “to ease the burden on families,” the amendment said.
It also seeks to address longstanding discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace that is considered one of the chief disincentives to having additional children, along with high costs and cramped housing.
In June of 2022, upwards of 35 percent of the U.S. could instantly lose access to legal abortion. The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark case in 1973 which held that a person’s right to choose an abortion was integral to their right to privacy and therefore should not be dictated by the government. Through decades of carefully orchestrated, conservative state-level action, 24 states are poised to overturn Roe protections, including 10 with immediate “trigger bans” in place, which would remove already limited abortion access as soon as federal protection ends. While this is overwhelming, there are steps we can take now to protect and expand abortion access. Since change happens from the ground up, one of the most critical things we can do is to increase our support of state- and local-level reproductive rights and justice activism.
For people living in these “trigger ban” states, or in historically excluded communities across the country, already limited abortion access could end entirely. For those in sanctuary states like Colorado, limited resources could become even more strained. For all states, tenuous abortion access laws are only as strong as the current makeup of that state’s lawmakers. It took decades in Washington State and in Virginia, for example, to build up progressive state legislatures to advance reproductive rights protections, but it would not take long to undo that progress if either state legislature flipped to a conservative majority. In Southern states like North Carolina, a conservative state legislature is continuing to push through abortion restrictions despite the fact that the majority of constituents support Roe.
Every single person in the U.S. would be impacted by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. We all know and love someone who has had an abortion. In fact, an estimated 23.7 percent of people who can give birth will have an abortion by age 45. Without Roe, it will be even more likely you or someone you love could be criminally charged for having a miscarriage: In Georgia, people could face up to 30 years in prison for miscarrying; in Alabama, an individual was charged with manslaughter in the loss of pregnancy after being shot; in Washington State for miscarrying in a hotel room — or even for using certain forms of birth control. Any one of us could be sued for driving a friend or partner to their abortion, under the new Texas law that criminalizes “aiding and abetting” of abortions. If you are lucky to live in a place with state-level abortion protections, you could expect that your independent clinics and abortion providers, who are already under-resourced, would be further constrained when people from neighboring states come to seek care. No one is exempt from the impact of overturning Roe v. Wade, and no one should underestimate the power of precedent when it comes to removing individual rights to bodily autonomy.
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The protection of reproductive rights at the state level, both the creation of policies that improve abortion access and the prevention of restrictive policies that reduce it, has taken decades. It has been most effective with local power- and relationship-building, the intentional centering of community voices and the cultivation of egoless leadership. Expanding reproductive rights can only be accomplished through the continued building of trust with and participation by community members in the grassroots organizing groups.
Central to this discussion is that reproductive rights are only a small piece of the abortion access ecosystem. Local and regional abortion funds, and organizations like SisterSong, have for decades emphasized that legal protections are only the bare minimum, and often not even that. The right to live in health and safety takes far more than basic legal protections, and actual abortion access is dependent on several more factors than just whether Roe holds. This remains true, and if Roe is overturned, abortion access would become even more dependent than it already is on where a person lives, their income level, their physical ability, their type of insurance, where they are in their pregnancy, and deeply ingrained disparities due to their race, gender and how they self-identify. Roe has never been enough. We need better.
Fortunately, we are not without power. We can donate to or volunteer with grassroots organizations in our states and communities. We can support local abortion funds and volunteer to escort patients at clinics. We can ask local candidates — from school board commissioners to city councilors to state legislators — where they stand on reproductive rights, health and justice issues. We can vote in all municipal and state elections, and hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises about abortion protection. We can remind each other that the decision to get an abortion is personal. We can and should speak out about why we support abortion access to help remove harmful abortion stigma. We can remind each other that the majority of people across the country support abortion access, and that the conservative action is not reflective of the majority viewpoint.
Abortion access impacts every single person in our country, regardless of gender, geographic location, income or political orientation. We cannot lose our fundamental right to private decision-making about our own bodies, and — while this feels frightening and overwhelming — we all can and should work together to make a difference. Your voice matters. Every voice does.
5 hours ago
Nearly 100 people were shot across the country during the holiday weekend
14 people killed in Chicago over the weekend; ‘America’s Newsroom’ reports
Major cities were already braced for gun violence as shootings had been on the rise over the past few weeks, but nearly 100 people were shot across the country during the holiday weekend.
New York City alone saw 26 people shot from Friday through Sunday, with two of them resulting in deaths.
Five people were shot in the Bronx Saturday at around 9 p.m., and 10 more people were shot Sunday, the New York Daily News reported.
A large brawl between as many as 50 adolescents in Atlanta resulted at least one death. Police sought footage of the fight to find leads on the cause of the fight and the death.
A 14-year-old boy died, and police arrested a 17-year-old in possession of two guns, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.
A shooting in Fort Worth, Texas, left eight people wounded shortly after 1:30 a.m. Sunday when someone fired multiple shots near a car wash, with some of the victims returning fire.
Police said that the victims were taken to hospitals and are in stable condition. No suspects are in custody.
Two people died and three others were wounded in a shooting in downtown Cincinnati when a suspect opened fire during a fireworks display.
The identities of the victims was not made public, and police released no information about the suspect.
Police were not exempt from the violence, either: Two Chicago officers were shot and wounded around 1:45 a.m. Monday. One officer was struck in the foot while the other was struck in the thigh.
The officers went to hospital as a precaution, as their injuries were not life-threatening.
“There’s been a lot of large crowd gatherings tonight, a lot of celebratory fireworks going off, kind of spontaneous,” police Superintendent David Brown said. “They were dispersing a crowd when they heard shots and felt pain.”
Those were just two of some 88 shootings that occurred in Chicago over the weekend, with at least 14 fatalities in that number, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The victims, ranging in age from 12 to 30, were from incidents scattered across the city. The most tragic shooting saw a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy killed and several others injured early Monday morning in Washington Park.
Milwaukee police are investing multiple shootings that occurred Sunday, resulting in several injuries and at least one death.
An 18-year-old woman was shot and killed Sunday at 11:30 p.m., with at least one suspect being sought. Other shootings resulted in an injury to a 30-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.
June 18, 20211:38 PM ET
President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, shown here on Jan. 20, 2021, attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle during Inauguration Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C.Evan Vucci/AP
After a contentious debate, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has voted to move forward with a process that could call into question the eligibility of politicians like President Joe Biden to receive Communion.
The bishops voted 168-55 in favor of drafting “a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church,” officials announced on Friday afternoon, the final day of their three-day virtual meeting. Six bishops abstained.
Biden’s election as only the nation’s second Roman Catholic president has prompted renewed debate over denying communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, a position at odds with church teachings.
During their online meeting, bishops held a spirited discussion Thursday before voting on the proposal to direct the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine to draft the statement. Such a document, once completed, could include guidelines for denying communion to public officials.
A Catholic president has become a lightning rod for debate
Biden was mentioned by name or alluded to several times, including by Bishop Liam Cary of the Diocese of Baker in Oregon, who described what he sees as an “unprecedented situation in the country.”Article continues after sponsor message
“We’ve never had a situation like this where the executive is a Catholic president opposed to the teaching of the church ” Cary said.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who leads the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has been among the most vocal critics of Biden’s support abortion rights. He said he’s disturbed by Catholic officials who “flaunt their Catholicity” while publicly taking positions on abortion that conflict with those of the church.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, presents a report on stem-cell research during the general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, June 12, 2008.Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
“This is a Catholic president that’s doing the most aggressive thing we’ve ever seen in terms of this attack on life when it’s most innocent,” Naumann said.
Other bishops urged caution, echoing a warning from the Vatican that moving forward with the document could politicize the sacrament of Holy Communion and risk deepening divisions among American Catholics, at a time when many are just beginning to return to in-person worship.
“Bishops now want to talk about excluding people at a time when the real challenge before them is welcoming people back to the regular practice of the faith, and rebuilding their communities,” Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago warned.
Bishop Robert Coerver of Lubbock, Texas, described what he saw as a rush to address the issue, and suggested that the debate was being clouded by concerns about upcoming elections.
“I can’t help but wonder if the years 2022 and 2024 might be part of the rush,” he said. “And I think we need to be real careful not to get embroiled in the political situation.”
Soon after, Bishop Thomas Daly of the Spokane Diocese expressed skepticism about calls by some bishops for more time to discuss the matter and engage in dialogue with officials who support abortion rights.
“There is an aggressiveness in a number of elected officials, and this call for dialogue,” he said “Sometimes I wonder if the dialogue is meant not truly to listen but to delay.”
The bishops’ vote concerns what is largely a procedural step – but one fraught with debate, given larger disagreements over how church leaders treat public officials who take positions at odds with those of the Catholic Church. Those decisions currently are left to local bishops.
About two-thirds of American Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to receive Communion, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center released in March. But many Catholics – like Americans in general – are starkly divided on the issue by party; more than half of Catholics who also identify as Republicans said Biden should not be allowed to receive the sacrament because of his views on abortion.
Discussion of who can receive the sacrament has a long history
The issue of who is eligible to receive the sacrament also has divided U.S. Catholic Bishops; several have called for denying communion to Biden and other prominent Roman Catholic officials who take positions on abortion at odds with those of the Catholic church, while others have argued the Eucharist should not be used to advance political goals.
Church leaders have expressed concerns about declining Mass attendance, and how well parishioners understand the full meaning and significance of the sacrament. In 2019, only about one third of American Catholics surveyed by Pew said they believed the church’s teaching known as “transubstantiation” – or the idea that during communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Instead, most Catholics said they saw the sacrament as symbolic. According to church teaching, Catholics are expected to be free of any significant, unconfessed sin and in what’s known as a “state of grace” when receiving communion.
Similar discussions have arisen before, most notably when Democrat John Kerry, also a Roman Catholic, was running for President in 2004. The debate resurfaced surrounding Biden’s run for President in 2020.
Biden, only the nation’s second Catholic president, was endorsed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups during his presidential run in 2020. The year before, he pleased abortion rights advocates by ending his longtime support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions for low-income women, in most cases.
The three-day meeting, which is being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, ended on Friday afternoon.
Preparation of a new statement on the meaning of the Eucharist is only a first step; the bishops would have an opportunity to amend the proposed document at a future meeting before voting on whether or not to approve it. They’re scheduled to meet again in person in November.
- The dolphin washed up on Bacocho beach in Puerto Escondido, southern Mexico
- It was found to have suffocated after a diaper got stuck in its teeth and throat
- Local people also found that the animal had several wounds on its body and fins
PUBLISHED: 09:34 EDT, 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 EDT, 20 August 2018
These horrifying images show a a dead dolphin that washed up on a beach with a diaper stuck in its mouth and a broken jaw.
Tourists and fishermen, who spotted the washed-up striped dolphin with the man-made waste still attached to its teeth, believe it died from suffocation.
The mammal was found on the Bacocho beach in the municipality of Puerto Escondido, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. +6
Gory photos showed extensive damage to the dolphin’s body and a broken jaw with pieces of diaper inside+6
The animal was found tragically death by locals in southern Mexico and is believed to have suffocated
- Enormous great white shark drags bleeding dolphin carcass…Teaching old FISH new tricks! Marine animals pick out…
- Fish takeaway! Dolphins beach themselves to trap their prey…
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Local media report San Pedro Mixtepec Clean Beaches Committee, who found the female dolphin, said it had received blows all over its body and injuries to its fins as well as a broken jaw.Dailymail.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Daily MailPauseNext video0:42 / 2:01SettingsFull-screenRead More
Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) and the secretary of Environmental and Natural Resources along with the Sea University are investigating the case in order to discover the cause of the death of the mammal.
The striped dolphin was reportedly 1.57 metres (5.15 feet) long and weighed around 100 kilogrammes (220 lbs).
Authorities have now removed the dolphin’s body from the beach.
The striped dolphin inhabits temperate or tropical, off-shore waters and is found in abundance in the North and South Atlantic Oceans, including the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. +6
Mexican authorities, among them the Federal Prosecution for the Environment Protection (PROFEPA) are now investigating
More: Dolphin is found suffocated to death by a DIAPER that got caught in its teeth and throat while it swam off the coast of Mexico
In the world’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the source of our food is coming into the spotlight. There’s good reason for that: Agriculture accounts for 16 to 27% of human-caused climate-warming emissions. But much of these emissions are not from carbon dioxide, that familiar climate change villain. They’re from another gas altogether: nitrous oxide (N2O).
Also known as laughing gas, N2O does not get nearly the attention it deserves, says David Kanter, a nutrient pollution researcher at New York University and vice-chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative, an organisation focused on nitrogen pollution research and policy making. “It’s a forgotten greenhouse gas,” he says.
Yet molecule for molecule, N2O is about 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide at heating the atmosphere. And like CO2, it is long-lived, spending an average of 114 years in the sky before disintegrating. It also depletes the ozone layer. In all, the climate impact of laughing gas is no joke. Scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have estimated that nitrous oxide comprises roughly 6% of greenhouse gas emissions, and about three-quarters of those N2O emissions come from agriculture.
But despite its important contribution to climate change, N2O emissions have largely been ignored in climate policies. And the gas continues to accumulate. A 2020 review of nitrous oxide sources and sinks found that emissions rose 30% in the last four decades and are exceeding all but the highest potential emissions scenarios described by the IPCC. Agricultural soil – especially because of the globe’s heavy use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser – is the principal culprit.
Synthetic fertilisers are a large source of N2O emissions in agriculture (Credit: Getty Images)
Today, scientists are looking at several ways to treat the soil or adjust farming practices to cut back on N2O production.
“Anything that can be done to improve fertiliser use efficiency would be big,” says Michael Castellano, an agroecologist and soil scientist at Iowa State University.
Humanity has tipped the Earth’s nitrogen cycle out of balance. Before the rise of modern agriculture, most plant-available nitrogen on farms came from compost, manure and nitrogen-fixing microbes which take nitrogen gas (N2) and convert it to ammonium, a soluble nutrient that plants can take up through their roots. That all changed in the early 1900s with the debut of the Haber-Bosch process that provided an industrial method to produce massive amounts of ammonia fertiliser.
This abundance of synthetic fertiliser has boosted crop yields and helped to feed people around the globe, but this surplus nitrate and ammonium comes with environmental costs. Producing ammonia fertiliser accounts for about 1% of all global energy use and 1.4% of CO2 emissions (the process requires heating nitrogen gas and subjecting it to pressures of up to 400 atmospheres, so it’s very energy-intensive). More importantly, the fertiliser drives increased emissions of nitrous oxide because farmers tend to apply the nitrogen to their fields in a few large batches during the year, and crops can’t use it all.
When plant roots don’t take up all the nutrients from fertiliser, the greenhouse gas N2O is released (Credit: E. Verhoeven et al/California Agriculture 2017/Knowable Magazine)
When plant roots don’t mop up that fertiliser, some of it runs off the field and pollutes waterways. What remains is consumed by a succession of soil microbes that convert the ammonia to nitrite, then nitrate and, finally, back to N2 gas. N2O is made as a by-product at a couple of points during this process.
There’s really a gold mine living in the soil – Isai Salas-González
Carefully dispensing fertiliser right when plants need it or finding ways to maintain yields with reduced nitrogen fertiliser would reduce these N2O emissions. Scientists are looking at various ways to do that. One strategy under investigation is to use precision agriculture techniques that use remote sensing technology to determine where and when to add nitrogen to fields, and how much. Another is to use nitrification inhibitors, chemicals that suppress the ability of microbes to turn ammonia into nitrate, impeding the creation of N2O and keeping the nitrogen in the soil for plants to use over a longer span of time.
Widely adopting these two practices would reduce nitrous oxide emissions about 26% from their current trajectory by 2030, according to a 2018 estimate by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. But the authors say it will take more than that to help meet greenhouse gas targets such as those set forth in the Paris Agreement. So, scientists are exploring additional strategies.
One option involves harnessing the potential of certain microbes to directly supply nitrogen to plants, much as nitrogen-fixing bacteria already do in partnership with beans, peanuts and other legumes. “There’s really a gold mine living in the soil,” says Isai Salas-González, an author of an article on the plant microbiome in the 2020 Annual Review of Microbiology and a computational biologist who recently completed a PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In that vein, since 2019 the company Pivot Bio has marketed a microbial product called Pivot Bio Proven that, they say, forms a symbiosis with crops’ roots after an inoculant is poured in the furrows where corn seeds are planted. (The company plans to release similar products for sorghum, wheat, barley and rice.) The microbes spoon-feed nitrogen a little at a time in exchange for sugars leaked by the plant, reducing the need for synthetic fertiliser, says Karsten Temme, chief executive of Pivot Bio.
Microbes in the soil break ammonia down through a series of reactions, releasing N2O in the process, which can be measured in the field (Credit: Getty Images)
Temme says that company scientists created the inoculant by isolating a strain of the bacterium Kosakonia sacchari that already had nitrogen-fixing capabilities in its genome, although the genes in question were not naturally active under field conditions. Using gene editing technology, the scientists were able to reactivate a set of 18 genes so the bacterium makes the enzyme nitrogenase even in the presence of synthetic fertiliser. “We coax them to start making this enzyme,” Temme says.
Steven Hall, a biogeochemist at Iowa State University, is now testing the product in large, dumpster-sized containers with corn growing in them. Researchers apply the inoculant, along with different amounts of synthetic fertiliser, to the soil and measure corn yields, nitrous oxide production and how much nitrate leaches from the base of the containers. Though results of the trial are not yet out, Hall says there’s “good initial support” for the hypothesis that the microbes reduce the need for fertiliser, thereby reducing nitrous oxide emissions.
But some soil scientists and microbiologists are sceptical of a quick microbial fix. “Biofertilisers” like these have had mixed success, depending on the soil and environment in which they are applied, says Tolu Mafa-Attoye, an environmental microbiology graduate student at the University of Guelph in Canada. In one field study of wheat, for example, inoculating the crops with beneficial microbes enhanced growth of the plants but only resulted in slightly greater yields. Unknowns abound, Mafa-Attoye’s Guelph colleagues wrote in February in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems – such as whether the microbes will negatively affect the soil ecology or be outcompeted by native microbes.
Instead of adding in a microbe, it may make more sense to encourage the growth of desirable microbes that already exist in the soil, says Caroline Orr, a microbiologist at Teesside University in the UK. She has found that cutting back on pesticide use led to a more diverse microbial community and a greater amount of natural nitrogen fixation. In addition, production of nitrous oxide is influenced by the availability of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen – and all are affected by adjusting fertiliser use, irrigation and ploughing.
Take tillage, for example. An analysis of more than 200 studies found that nitrous oxide emissions increased in the first 10 years after farmers stopped or cut back on ploughing their land. But after that, emissions fell. Johan Six, a co-author of the analysis and an agroecologist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, thinks that’s because the soils start out in a heavily compacted state after years of equipment driving over them. Over time, though, the undisturbed soil forms a cookie-crumb-like structure that allows more air to flow in. And in high oxygen environments, microbes produce less nitrous oxide. Such no-till systems also result in more carbon storage because less ploughing means reduced conversion of organic carbon to CO2– thereby providing an additional climate benefit.
Switching to minimal ploughing could help reduce N2O emissions from soils (Credit: Getty Images)
It may even be possible for farmers to save money on fertiliser and water and reduce emissions, all while maintaining yields. In research on tomato farms in California’s Central Valley, Six found that study plots with reduced tillage and a drip irrigation system that slowly oozed nitrogen to plants – reducing how much of the nutrient pooled in the soil – lowered N2O emissions by 70% compared with conventionally managed plots. The farmer who implemented those changes was also compensated for his greenhouse gas reduction through the state’s cap-and-trade program. With the right incentives, persuading farmers to cut their emissions might not be that hard, says Six.
In Missouri, farmer Andrew McCrea grows 2,000 acres of corn and soy in a no-till system. This year, he plans to trim back his fertiliser use and see if the Pivot Bio inoculant can keep his yields more or less the same. “I think all farmers certainly care about the soil,” he says. “If we can cut costs, that’s great too.”
And if policymakers turn to tackling nitrous oxide, there should be rippling benefits for all of us, says Kanter of New York University. Some of them could be more rapid and tangible than addressing climate change. The same measures that lower N2O levels also reduce local air and water pollution as well as biodiversity losses. “Those are things that people will see and feel immediately,” Kanter says, “within years as opposed to within decades or centuries.”
By Bloomberg News May 31, 2021, 1:51pm MDT
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China will allow all couples to have a third child in a bid to arrest the shrinking birthrate and aging population that are risks to the country’s long-term economic prospects.
“Allowing every couple to have three children and implementing related support policies will help improve the population’s structure,” the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a Politburo meeting held Monday. It wasn’t clear when the move would take effect, although the meeting was to discuss major policy measures to be implemented in the five-year period which started this year, according to Xinhua.
China has been gradually reforming its stringent birth policy that limited most families for many years to only having a single child, with a second child allowed since 2016. However, that did little to reverse the declining birthrate and further relaxation of the limits is unlikely to lead to a sustained increase.Report ad
The Politburo also said that China “will prudently lift the retirement age in a phased manner,” according to the report of the meeting presided over by President Xi Jinping. The increase in the age at which people can retire was included in the current five-year plan although there were no details.
China’s declining birthrate means the population may soon begin shrinking. Bloomberg Economics estimates the slowdown in population growth means the world’s most populous country could peak before 2025. The annual average population growth of 0.53% in the past decade was the slowest since the 1950s, according to recent census data released.
As in East Asia and Europe, preferences have shifted toward smaller families. A spike in births following the previous relaxation to allow most families to have two children was short-lived, with many parents citing the high costs of housing and education as a limiting factor. There were only 12 million new babies born in China last year, the lowest number since 1961.