Morgan_-_Climate_change_N_cycle_NYT

Morgan_-_Climate_change_N_cycle_NYT - September 2, 2008...

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September 2, 2008 Beyond Carbon: Scientists Worry About Nitrogen’s Effects By RICHARD MORGAN TOOLIK FIELD STATION, Alaska — As Anne Giblin was lugging four-foot tubes of Arctic lakebed mud from her inflatable raft to her nearby lab this summer, she said, “Mud is a great storyteller.” Dr. Giblin, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., is part of the Long Term Ecological Research network at an Arctic science outpost here operated by the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Public discussion of complicated climate change is largely reduced to carbon: carbon emissions, carbon footprints, carbon trading. But other chemicals have large roles in the planet’s health, and the one Dr. Giblin is looking for in Arctic mud, one that a growing number of other researchers are also concentrating on, is nitrogen. In addition to having a role in climate change, nitrogen has a huge, probably more important biological impact through its presence in fertilizer. Peter Vitousek, a Stanford ecologist whose 1994 essay put nitrogen on the environmental map, co-authored a study this summer in the journal Nature that put greater attention on the nitrogen cycle and warned against ignoring it in favor of carbon benefits. For example, Dr. Vitousek said in an interview, “There’s a great danger in doing something like, oh, overfertilizing a cornfield to boost biofuel consumption, where the carbon benefits are far outweighed by the nitrogen damage.” Soon after Dr. Vitousek’s report, the journal Geophysical Research Letters branded as a “missing greenhouse gas” nitrogen trifluoride, which is used in production of semiconductors and in liquid-crystal displays found in many electronics. According to the report, it causes more global warming than coal-fired plants. Nitrogen trifluoride, which is not one of the six gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the celebrated
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2010 for the course CEE 320 taught by Professor Mcmahon during the Spring '10 term at Wisconsin.

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Morgan_-_Climate_change_N_cycle_NYT - September 2, 2008...

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