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Editorial comment

Like many others, I have watched in disbelief as chaos has unfolded across Europe in what has been dubbed ‘the summer of extremes.’ Wildfires have spread across the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu in the midst of an extreme heatwave, with tens of thousands of tourists and residents forced to evacuate across land and sea. Raging winds have also made suppressing the blazes considerably more challenging, leaving travellers and locals alike in limbo. Similarly, the sky has been filled with haze for weeks in Canada and the US as a product of ongoing wildfires. While it is part of a natural cycle for Canada’s boreal forests to burn, experts have noted that the fires have continued to intensify; thus far, the country’s wildfires have scorched forests totalling the size of the state of Virginia, and fire services and governments are scrambling to keep up.1

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Such extraordinary conditions follow a period of extreme weather conditions experienced all over the world. Temperatures recently rose to over 50°C in parts of the US and China, and across the globe, warnings of danger to life by high temperatures have been expressed. For instance, Death Valley in California recently hit 53.9°C, whilst China recorded its highest temperature of all time at 52.2°C in the Xinjiang region. This summer alone has seen four climate records broken, including the hottest day and the hottest June on record, marine heatwaves, and record-low Antarctic sea-ice.

Record-breaking and abnormal conditions such as this are set to become more frequent, with heatwaves expected to be more intense and last longer than ever. Scientist, Dr Frederieke Otto, from Imperial College London, recently claimed: “What we are seeing at the moment is exactly what we expect in a world where we are still burning fossil fuels.” World Meteorological Organisation MO Secretary-General, Prof Petteri Taalas, has also spoken out on the issue, re-emphasising the importance of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, and proposing that efforts must be stepped up “to help society adapt to what is unfortunately becoming the new normal.”2 As the climate crisis moves into unchartered territory, The International Energy Agency has urged that no new oil, gas or coal projects are proposed.

The fertilizer industry has undoubtedly recognised its role as a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and has since shown its commitment to net zero and low-carbon pathways. The International Fertilizer Association, for example, has assured the public that its members are hard at work pioneering new technologies to produce ammonia from sustainable, carbon-neutral inputs.3

Moreover, at the recent Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) Summit in Washington, D.C, more than 20 countries gathered to discuss the acceleration of clean technologies and sustainable solutions in agriculture. At the Summit, FCDO Minister for Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, discussed the threats of climate change, and hailed innovation, research and ingenuity as the pillars to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity. Trevelyan went on to announce that the UK would join the Global Fertilizer Challenge, committing £3 million to a new research consortium. The consortium is said to be focused on developing alternative fertilizers to boost sustainability and productivity, and will encourage spending on the development of climate-resilient agricultural innovations.

In a bid to help the fertilizer industry meet net zero targets and boost sustainability, the UK has also made grants of £51 million for the Farming Innovation Programme in 2023, encouraging researchers, farmers, and businesses to come together in research and development projects. A data-sharing solution for farmers has been a product of the programme, in which farmers can support each other in measuring and monitoring soil health patterns.4

The fertilizer industry can therefore be seen to be doing its bit towards meeting looming climate targets, and we can hope that other industries follow suit and keep their cool as the climate debate heats up. While none of us have the power to reverse global warming overnight, we can certainly aim to slow it down, meaning greenhouse gas emissions will peak as soon as possible, and are reduced rapidly thereafter. As Dr Otto states, “We are in a new era, but we still have time to secure a liveable future for many.”


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