Statistics

Protesting The Non-Crisis Nitrogen “Crisis” In The Netherlands

On the Fourth of July, a group of angry Dutch farmers and fishermen, presumably dressed as colorful Frisians, and in the grip of angry exuberance, burnt bales of hay on roads, and blocked up highways with tractors and farm equipment, shutting down traffic throughout the country. Ports and borders were stopped up.

As fun as that was, it doesn’t beat this:

This was all in protest of the government’s declaration that nitrogen is a “crisis“, and so threatening to confiscate farms to “solve” the “crisis.” Prediction: Later, it will be said to be a coincidence when the government eventually disposes of the confiscated farms by selling them to rich people.

What makes it all funny is that—sit down for this—there is no nitrogen “crisis” in the Netherlands.

“Briggs, how do you know there is no nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands, when Experts there have declared that one exists?”

Thank you for that question. Here’s how.

1. Nitrogen Critical Loads: Critical Reflections on Past Experiments, Ecological Endpoints, and Uncertainties, a peer-reviewed review paper by (chemist) Jaap Hanekamp and Yours Truly.

Abstract:

Nitrogen Critical Loads (NCL), as purported ecological dose-response outcomes for nitrogen deposition from anthropogenic sources, play a central role in environmental policies around the world. In the Netherlands, these NCL are used to assess, via calculations using the model AERIUS, to what extent NCL are exceeded for different habitats as a result of different sources such as industry, agriculture, traffic. NCL are, however, not well defined, and are subject to hitherto unrecognized forms of uncertainty. We will address this with reference to a number of key studies that forms the basis for several NCL. We will subsequently propose amendments that could be applicable to future nitrogen studies and their enhanced relevancy in decision making.

Nitrogen “critical” loads are one of the key metrics the government and Experts use to declare a “crisis.”

Here’s a an executive summary letter on that paper (same journal; full pdf).

And here’s a popular article on that paper.

2. The model AERIUS/OPS model, mentioned above, and another metric use to declare a “crisis”, is not good. Here’s one representative picture from a new paper we are working on which assess that model (the picture is not ours, but from an experiment to test the model):

Y-axis are predictions of SF6, and the X-axis are the observations, at some distance from a power plant. That look like a good prediction to you?

To me neither.

3. National land grabbing or the anti-politics of nitrogen policy. (This is from Hanekamp’s blog, written in an obscure language that no one of my acquaintance will admit to knowing, so what you see is a machine translation.)

As part of the “crisis”, areas designated as “sensitive” to nitrogen must be protected by being surrounded by naturea areas. “A tiny sliver of 3.84 hectares near the Frisian coast, H7140A (vibrated peat), has been designated as nitrogen-sensitive…Despite the small surface area of this habitat, a protection strip of no less than 28,000 hectares in total is deemed necessary by ministers” to form this protection zone.

Would you call this overkill? Or even overdreven?

So would I.

4. Another (brief) review paper by the same Definitive Duo: Outlining A New Method To Quantify Uncertainty In Nitrogen Critical Loads.

Abstract:

We highlight deficiencies and improvements of a nitrogen critical load model. An original model using logistic regression augmented observations with fictitious data. We replace that with actual data, and show how to incorporate uncertainty in nitrogen measurement into the modeling process. In the end, however, we show a basic logistic regression model has irremovable deficiencies, giving positive probability of harmful effects of nitrogen even when no nitrogen is present.

That last line is amazing, ain’t it?

5. Another peer-reviewed beauty: A volatile discourse – reviewing aspects of ammonia emissions, models and atmospheric concentrations in The Netherlands. (Journal link.)

From the Abstract:

In the Netherlands, there is a vigorous debate on ammonia emissions…We show that uncertainty in published results is substantial. This uncertainty is under- or even unreported, and as a result, data in national emission inventories are overconfident by a wide margin. Next, we demonstrate that the statistical handling of data on atmospheric ammonia concentrations to produce national yearly atmospheric averages is oversimplified and consequently atmospheric concentrations are substantially overestimated. Finally, we show that the much-discussed ‘ammonia gap’ – either the discrepancy between calculated and measured atmospheric ammonia concentrations or the difference observed between estimated NH3 emission levels and those indicated by atmospheric measurements – is an expression of the widespread overconfidence placed in atmospheric modelling.

Over-certainty abounds. And is embraced by people who love to yell “Crisis!”

6. Another paper: Uncertainty in the MAN Data Calibration & Trend Estimates.

Abstract quote: “We investigate trend identification in the LML and MAN atmospheric ammonia data. The signals are mixed in the LML data, with just as many positive, negative, and no trends found. The start date for trend identification is crucial, with the trends claimed changing sign and significance depending on the start date.”

These stations measure ammonia (one of the forms of nitrogen in the “crisis”) in the Netherlands.

7+ Response to van Pul, van Zanten and Wichink Kruit, and Comment on Goedhart and Huijsmans (2017)

That’s enough, but we have others, and more to come, too. Soon.

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Categories: Statistics

30 replies »

  1. Seems the Nitrogen Crisis is every bit as crisis-y as the Carbon Crisis and the Coof Crisis. Shocking.

    You’d think, following the principle that a stopped clock is right twice a day, that the WEFite expert class would occasionally base one of their power grabs on something with a tangential relationship to reality. If nothing else it would make things easier for them.

  2. The police were firing live rounds at farmers. The police are the enemy of free men everywhere

  3. You poor westerners simply have to come to terms with the fact that you are living in fascist dictatorships, not in any kind of “free world”, this is the crucial step for you to start formulating action plans.

  4. So now you just happen to be hip deep in the latest “crisis” ?! NitroDoom!

    Jack Crabb got nuthin’ on you.

  5. Have the farmers achieved anything? This kind of protest is at the same level as the trucker convoys, which have achieved absolutely nothing. Until politicians live in fear, nothing will change.

  6. Farming under EU Regulations is like Hang Gliding inverted inside a gyroscopic globe.

  7. Well, we have CO2 and Nitrogen crises. What’s the over/under on when the Oxygen crisis appears?

  8. Again, like all environmental “crises” this is about controlling the people by controlling food, water and energy.

    There is no science here, only politics.

  9. It costs a lot to put nitrogen into crop lands, and monoculture wheat , barley, triticale must have it( unlike buckwheat which doesnt). Perhaps its the biggest input cost , ignoring expensive banksters credit. “Pollution” screem the greenie Commie wokesters, but, it IMPROVES THE SOIL. An unpaid benefit to us all and our children. ( lord help the farmers) No till or minimal till farming was a big jump in practice but soul tilth improved( and no dustbowl erosion like the 1930s)
    Add politics to anything you get .. politics.
    Want cheap good food? Well you’re getting politics
    The solution is going to come down to tracking dogs, rope , and sturdy trees. Politics

  10. Banning Carbon, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Good start, but, to be honest, we should ban all elements of the periodic table. That would really save the planet!

  11. Zund-

    Isn’t there also a monetary reason the Dutch govt wants to grab this farmland?

    Grifting putting up housing for invaders was the one I heard.

  12. I like the idea of pouring excrement over bureaucratic institutions…but the problem doing it to parliament would be, it would sweeten the air not sour it because the stink given off by those already inside couldn’t get any worse!

  13. Is Mr. Gates or another buyer, looking to buy farmland there?
    God bless, C-Marie

  14. Matt’s beneficial influence on the first cited paper is obvious; Jaap Hanekamp is to be congratulated for noticing Matt’s genuine expertise, and (presumably) for inviting him to be a co-author.

    Sadly: “The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.” That’s necessarily a good thing???

    The paper makes what seems a reasonable survey of the most important current literature in the domain, non-hysterically points out defects in both methods and assumptions, and makes fair criticisms. The paper’s recommendations are a model of balance.

    The overmastering impression of both the literature surveyed, and of the current ramping of it into a “crisis,” is of oh-so-typical sciency sludge, the definition of undistinguished, unreflective in the standard ways, completely unworthy of note, and maybe even harmless in itself if you or I did it as a hobby in our spare time, now being ‘noticed’ by people with real hammers and tongs — people who might not even know what N, P, or K mean; but that’s irrelevant: N is bad.

    Or — well, N is good — but TOO MUCH N is bad — that’s completely “a-political,” amirite? Certainly we all agree about that.

    Who knows? The people of Sri Lanka might never recover from their own government’s recent nitrogen ban; the Netherlands may have more design margin, but hey — let’s try it and find out!

    I don’t share Mr. Hanekamp’s fondness — as he indicates elsewhere — for James Ferguson’s work, especially not Ferguson’s acknowledged indebtedness to Foucault. But stopped clocks, etc.: we live within matrices of shared meanings, even more than matrices of direct power. And how easily those meanings seemingly can be manipulated.

    “…giving positive probability of harmful effects of nitrogen even when no nitrogen is present.” As if that disqualifies the model!

    I think of a general observation Matt has made several times, and in this particular case I can’t help but feel that it doesn’t matter how ordinarily clueless, or even repulsively bad, the “science” of “N-criticality” is or becomes.

  15. JohnK,

    It’s amazing the amount of money you can’t make opposing the regime.

  16. There is a crisis of words on the internet!

    Did you know that there are more words on the internet than people will ever read???

    And not just words! COLONIAL ENGLISH WORDS! This is triggering to BIPOC people whose original languages are lost and dying as they are all also forced into Anglish-white-wordy-slavery!

    But forget all that, we have a CRISIS! TOO MANY WORDS AND NOT ENOUGH INTERNET!!! We are running out and words are increasing exponentially with every outrage we create!

    The internet needs to be regulated! It is a scarce resource! There is not enough of it! Bandwidth prices are skyrocketing! Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is exacerbating it! People’s ability to just type words willy-nilly needs to be rationed and controlled for the common good!

    The government has to help!

    HELP US GOVERNMENT!!!

    !!!!!!HELP!!!!!

  17. Nitrogen is most certainly a great threat to all life on Earth all over the Globe. It presently comprises about 78% of the atmosphere and unless it is diluted with Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide (the next two most plentiful gasses in the atmosphere) no organic life can survive.

    Another terror of Nitrogen is that lightening (in the presence of Oxygen) produces horrid nitrates that can be absorbed by plants to produce amino acids and thus proteins, a clear threat to the Synagogue of Satan that wants to destroy the Natural Order created by God to demonstrate their power over God. Ammonia, another compound of Nitrogen, usually excreted by animals as a by-product of protein metabolism, is short lived in the atmosphere, but can be absorbed by plants to manufacture new proteins. Curiously, many years ago I helped out a nearby farmer by feeding his pigs when he went away. He remarked that his crops grew noticeably better “within smell of the piggery”.

    Anyhow, I rather doubt that Nitrogen, Carbon etc. cycles in Nature would be of much interest to properly domesticated folk for whom the source of all goods is the shopping centre.

  18. There are many commenters on this ‘site that I just flick over but Jacko is not one of them.

    Yep! Jacko! Caesar should fix everything! Colonial English should be a thing of the past. Pass a “law” that immediately deletes anything that is not Esperanto. That would ensure that all comments are from “accredited” sources.

  19. Thank you, Oldavid! Loved reading your comment! The connections are most interesting to this one who has not much knowledge in this field.

    God bless, C-Marie

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