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Nitrogen: A Global Challenge

Learn about the global nitrogen challenge, how nitrogen has helped human civilization to develop, and how its misuse now threatens us.

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After a course session ends, it will be archived.
Starts Sep 17
Estimated 5 weeks
2–3 hours per week
Self-paced
Progress at your own speed
Free
Optional upgrade available

About this course

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It’s a perfect storm. Limited food, water and energy unequally spread between an expanding population, and a warming climate as the bitter icing on the cake. In all these global challenges nitrogen has a leading role to play. Here you will learn just how hard-wired into all of human civilisation nitrogen is, and whether the future will see it as our quiet savior or the toxic villain of the piece.

Nitrogen’s story is of the peculiar and the mundane, of water turning red and people turning blue. It is one of climate friend and pollution foe, of meaty feasts and looming famine. If your main thought of nitrogen is as a boring corner of the periodic table then it’s time to look again.

This innovative course, regardless of your background, will teach you core concepts about nitrogen and global change, allowing you to better understand the challenges and opportunities it represents. Key topics include food security, climate change, air pollution, water pollution, human health and more.

Learn through the award-winning teaching approaches of the University of Edinburgh’s faculty team. This course brings an engaging and expert approach to the global challenges of nitrogen, showing how the threats it poses for human civilization can be better integrated and tackled.

Taught by instructors with decades of experience in nitrogen and global change research, this world-first course is a collaboration between leading experts in the UK and India as part of the Newton-Bhabha Virtual Centre on Nitrogen Efficiency.

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English

What you'll learn

Skip What you'll learn
  • Learn about the global nitrogen challenge, how nitrogen has helped human civilization to develop, and how its misuse now threatens us
  • Discover how fundamental nitrogen is to agriculture and food security
  • Understand the role of nitrogen in air pollution and its impact on human health
  • Learn how nitrogen can pollute our water and the risks that then arise
  • Examine the solutions to the global challenges of nitrogen and how we can better manage this precious element

Week 1: Global Nitrogen Challenge
Introduction to nitrogen, its uses, and overview of its role in global food production, pollution and climate change

Week 2: Nitrogen and Agriculture
Introduction to the nitrogen cycle, history of nitrogen use for food production, interactions with climate change, future challenges for food security

Week 3: Nitrogen and Air Pollution
How nitrogen causes local and global air pollution, its impacts, trends and future challenges

Week 4: Nitrogen and Water
How nitrogen gets into our water, impacts on freshwater and the oceans, risks to ecosystems and human health

Week 5: Nitrogen Solutions
Improving nitrogen use in agriculture, smart food choices, tackling air and water pollution, integrated management

About the instructors

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