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Tommy Dalgaard

A framework for nitrogen futures in the shared socioeconomic pathways

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  • David R. Kanter, New York University
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  • Wilfried Winiwarter, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), University of Zielona Gora
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  • Benjamin L. Bodirsky, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
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  • Lex Bouwman, Utrecht University, Utrecht
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  • Elizabeth Boyer, Pennsylvania State University
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  • Simon Buckle, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
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  • Jana E. Compton, United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • ,
  • Tommy Dalgaard
  • Wim de Vries, Wageningen University and Research Centre
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  • David Leclère, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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  • Adrian Leip, European Commission - Joint Research Centre
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  • Christoph Müller, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
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  • Alexander Popp, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
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  • Nandula Raghuram, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
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  • Shilpa Rao, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
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  • Mark A. Sutton, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
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  • Hanqin Tian, Auburn University
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  • Henk Westhoek, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
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  • Xin Zhang, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
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  • Monika Zurek, University of Oxford, Oxford

Humanity's transformation of the nitrogen cycle has major consequences for ecosystems, climate and human health, making it one of the key environmental issues of our time. Understanding how trends could evolve over the course of the 21st century is crucial for scientists and decision-makers from local to global scales. Scenario analysis is the primary tool for doing so, and has been applied across all major environmental issues, including nitrogen pollution. However, to date most scenario efforts addressing nitrogen flows have either taken a narrow approach, focusing on a singular impact or sector, or have not been integrated within a broader scenario framework – a missed opportunity given the multiple environmental and socio-economic impacts that nitrogen pollution exacerbates. Capitalizing on our expanding knowledge of nitrogen flows, this study introduces a framework for new nitrogen-focused narratives based on the widely used Shared Socioeconomic Pathways that include all the major nitrogen-polluting sectors (agriculture, industry, transport and wastewater). These new narratives are the first to integrate the influence of climate and other environmental pollution control policies, while also incorporating explicit nitrogen-control measures. The next step is for them to be used as model inputs to evaluate the impact of different nitrogen production, consumption and loss trajectories, and thus advance understanding of how to address environmental impacts while simultaneously meeting key development goals. This effort is an important step in assessing how humanity can return to the planetary boundary of this essential element over the coming century.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102029
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume61
Number of pages10
ISSN0959-3780
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Environmental policy, Nitrogen pollution, Scenarios

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