(Yet Another) New Paper Proves There Is No Nitrogen “Crisis” In The Netherlands

There is in the Netherlands a concocted “nitrogen crisis”, which has all the earmarks of a manufactured panic. I don’t mean in the conspiratorial sense. I mean in the Expert-created and ruler-desired sense of wild over-certainty, half-assed conclusions, and wholly unnecessary, but badly desired, “solutions” mixed with ridiculous vice-signaling zeal in efforts to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

Which is to say, business as usual in an Expertocracy.

Now I don’t want your eyes to glaze over or for you to surf away because this is happening in some faraway foreign country. Because it’s also happening here, only with “carbon” instead of “nitrogen.” The same techniques we apply to puncture the balloon of heated over-certainty in the Netherlands can be used here, too.

Those who can read Dutch can see Geesje Rotger’s tweet and magazine article on the subject. Those who want the full details can read our paper (in English) “Nitrogen and Chlorine Changes Through A Netherlands Catchment – A Critique of Kaandorp et al. (2021)“. What follows here is a brief, and necessarily incomplete, summary of that paper. All quotes below are from our paper.

We generously received data and code from another paper (that Kaandorp) and reanalyzed it. We discovered there was no problem with “nitrogen”—specifically nitrate (they also measured chlorine and tritium, which don’t matter to us today, but details are in the paper). Just like with “climate change” and “carbon” people will say “nitrogen”.

There is a beek, or stream, in Springendalse, which is in eastern Netherlands. Nitrate was measured at both upstream and downstream locations, and over time. Kaandorp “reports that upstream ‘has several spring areas and is mostly forested with some agricultural fields’, and that downstream is predominately farmland.”

The “crisis” is that some say the farmland is contributing too much nitrate, which is seen everywhere as bad, like carbon dioxide. The analogy is complete because without either, no life is possible.

We show farms are not contributing too much nitrate.

Nitrate can be present downstream by starting upstream and wending its way down, while avoiding reacting with anything, or it can be injected anywhere along the way, including downstream at the farms. It takes, Kaandorp says, anywhere from 4 to 11 years for water to make its way from up- to downstream. Well, it’s a long way and it’s dark.

Measurements are a problem. There aren’t that many, they are not consistent, and they are not of high quality. From that alone we can conclude there can be no great confidence there is a “crisis.”

Here’s a time series picture marrying all sources:

See the green vertical line? That’s one source for upstream measurements. Contrast it with the light purple, which is contemporary but from another source. The two measurements, both of the same times and place, aren’t that close. Yes? Which one is right? I have no idea. And neither does anybody else. The orange and light blue are also oddly different than the others. Are they the correct ones? Who knows?

To maintain some kind of consistency, and because we have no idea how to combine disparate sources, we used just the Vechtstromen Water Board data, which at least had more-or-less simultaneous up- and downstream measures, and over a long period of time. If there’s any bias there, for instance the green line being correct, we can’t know it.

Here’s what we did:

Our purpose is to estimate the amount of change from upstream to downstream amounts of NO3…[A]ny number of causes are responsible for changes from the two points…which include runoff, various reactions with the substrate, and from precipitation and other sources, both upstream on through to downstream. These concentrations are changed from up- to downstream via reactions with the soil, air, and stream, and via additions from precipitation, runoff, and so forth.

We say nothing directly about these various causes of additions and subtractions. But it is still of interest to estimate the amount of change that occurs, and its direction. Knowing the amount helps point in the directions of which causes might be most present or absent and on the relative importance of those present. For instance, if more NO3 is found downstream than was found initially upstream, whatever caused these additions could be investigated. Likewise, if less nitrate is found downstream than upstream, the causes of this subtraction are obviously of greater importance than whatever might be causing additions, especially considering most agricultural sites are downstream.

With me so far?

Let’s suppose Kaadorp is right about the median of four years it takes for water to get from up- to downstream (in the paper we also do 0 and 11 years).

Here is a picture of the estimated downstream minus upstream values, assuming a 4-year travel time. If there were more nitrate downstream, where the farms are, the difference would be positive. Is it? No, sir, it is not.

A loess smoother is over-plotted to give loose predictions of values for times when measurements were not taken. The gray band is the 95% uncertainty bound for the mean prediction [and not the prediction of the actual values, just the average value; that band would be four times larger, more or less]. The dashed line are the inputs of NO3 from Kaandorp [estimated to come from whatever sources that author said]. There is little correlation between the input and 4-year NO3 differences. There is also no steady signal of the differences in time, except that since about 2000 the variability is measurements is lower than previously.

Same thing happens at 0 and 11 years (indeed, if it’s 11 years, environmentalists everywhere would rejoice! There is much more nitrate up than downstream. But the farms are downstream. The farms are not causing any “crisis”. What a cause for celebration!


Right? Sigh.

Our conclusion:

[T]hose causes which remove NO3…from the environment are more important, and stronger, than those that add these chemicals. This has been so from about the mid to late 1990s. Assuming, as Kaandorp do, that agricultural fields add more nitrate than subtract it, there must then necessarily be other very important sources than agriculture, as yet unrecognized, that are removing nitrate, since there is less at the end than the beginning. Or it could be that the contributions of nitrate from agriculture are less than thought.

There is no “crisis.”

So why is the Netherlands government acting like there is?

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Categories: Statistics

17 replies »

  1. Let’s ban mining of rare earths, etc, for wind turbines. (Pollution doesn’t count if it’s in the third world.)

  2. Briggs shows why there is no “nitrogen crisis”, and asks why the Netherlands government is acting like there is.

    “What is last in order of execution, is first in order of intention” observed St. Thomas Aquinas. The intention is the “why”.

    Here, the “solutions” may be last in order of execution, but they are first in order of intention. We find the answer to “why” in their “solutions.”

    We ask WHY western governments are gaslighting their citizens into believing that the plant food such as CO2 and nitrogen, are “pollutants”, making concepts like “Zero Carbon” their corporate goal? This is, on its face, peak-level crazy. And so….Why?

    In Denmark, as in most nations, government and private sector corporations are bundled together like fascia in a perpetual handshake made to look like arm wrestling.

    Denmark recently created a “Ministry of Nitrogen” (one of about 20 newly created “ministries”) whose Ministress partnered with Bill Gates & co., to create factory food companies for (what they now consider) human livestock.

    The only way the masses willingly consume their Purina People Chow, is to make real food prohibitively expensive by creating shortages. For this reason, and in order to drastically cull the herd worldwide, the Ministry of Nitrogen is taking vast quantities of farmland out of production.

    Just as all factory-farm livestock require periodic vaccination, so too they/them require balanced nutrition. Electric-powered vans (also owned by the fascist overlords) will deliver the Purina People Chow to the human livestock, who will be cordoned off in multi-family stalls, but allowed to roam somewhat freely in their “15 minute cities.”

    Along with extruding factory food products for human consumption, the overlords must also extrude “peer reviewed studies” to make people believe they must DIE to save the planet.

    It’s the new Eco-Patriotism: instead of dying for our Nation, we shall DIE for our Planet. It’s the least we can do, considering all that Gaia has done for us, we are told.

    Besides telling models what to say, well-paid experts are very careful about what they model in the first place: some models are “inconvenient” and others are just plain impossible, such as charting the number of people, in just the past hundred years, who have died of starvation because productive farmland was stolen by forced collectivists. Let’s just say, this is where “countless” gets its meaning…. and we’re gonna need a bigger graph.

  3. I apologize if this has been explained before, but… I THOUGH the concern was about NO2 in the AIR. Because it’s a greenhouse gas. Right? So why are we talking about nitrate deposition in the soil and in some rando creeks?

  4. Or does the Netherlands government want to bulldoze farms to throw up soviet style apartment blocks to warehouse immigrants? I don’t see why you have to wreck Dutch farming for this. If anyone could build the artificial islands in the North sea to hold more people is should be the Hollanders.

  5. Interesting paper – did you consider that the underground travel time might be much more variable (and it’s carrying capacity exponentially more so – why am I reminded that whisky is a solution? ) than Kaadorp et al let on?

    Given the nature of the land and the proximity of the rhine river system it may also be much less direct – i.e. the route may not be from upstream to downstream and so measured concentrations at both ends may not carry much meaning for the no3 debate – Can I assume someone is trying to get the permissions needed to inject some isotopes to find out one way or the other?

  6. Ann Cherry–what you wrote reads like an outline for a novel or movie about a frightening future. It also sounds like a completely plausible explanation for what’s really going on.

  7. All,

    I updated the post. One of my enemies removed a wee p from the first paragraph. Experts have been restored. Rejoice.

  8. “So why is the Netherlands government acting like there is?” My guess is that somebody from the Ruling Class wants to evict the peasants and take the land. Maybe they even want to farm it, in which case the nitrogen “problem” will be discovered not to be a problem after all.

  9. In case the above link gets “fact checked” into non-existence …
    “A group of institutional investors in the Netherlands have joined forces to present the Netherlands plus parts of Belgium and Germany as a single city network named Tristate City.

    The project, backed by Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW, says the region’s population of 30 million people creates a ‘sustainable urban power house’. The project’s supporters include property developers and pension funds as well as Utrecht’s economic board.

    Dutch cities, the organisation says, are too small to compete in what it calls the ‘battle of the cities’, in which mega cities compete for investment and talent.”

  10. In your final graph, the difference is measured in milligrams per litres. What is the difference in the flow of water between the upstream and downstream locations (i.e. is there more nitrate downstream, but also disproportionately more water so that the nitrate becomes more dilute)?

  11. BB,

    Excellent question. Don’t know the answer: no data. There is less nitrate down, and if there are any tributaries, it would be even more dilute. But important questions like that don’t need to be answered when we’re facing a “crisis.”

  12. Just to clarify, my question does not undermine your main conclusion — just offers a possible (albeit completely unproven due to lack of data) partial explanation for the drop in concentration. It is, after all, the concentration of nitrates that will be most important for any health or environmental impact.

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