Massive malnutrition may come with climate change

Israeli researchers were part of a Harvard study showing that crops of the future will contain fewer nutrients as a result of more CO2 in the air.

Israelis were part of a multicenter study that tried to understand the potentially devastating effects of climate change on the world’s poor and hungry, and the crops they eat for basic sustenance.

Their conclusions paint a grim picture.

Writing about their results in Natureone of the world’s most prominent science journals, the study leaders predict that as climate change progresses, crops grown in the second part of this century will become “hollow.”

There will be lower levels of iron, protein and zinc in mainstay crops such as wheat, peas, rice and soybeans. In some cases, the scientists say, nutrients will plummet by more than nine percent.

According to the recent study — led by Harvard University with prominent contributions by Itai Kloog from Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva, Israel –climate change and an increasingly carbon dioxide (CO2) rich environment affects the zinc, protein and iron levels in important crops.

About two billion people live in countries where these kinds of crops make up 60 percent or more of their iron and zinc intake. Millions of people around the world die each year from deficiencies of these nutrients.

The study was based on hundreds of field experiments that were focused on what could happen to agriculture when food crops are grown in increasingly severe conditions caused by climate change.

Need to breed CO2-resistant crops

CO2, released by combustion, is one greenhouse gas that is causing the earth to warm. Scientists the world over, including those at the United Nations, agree that climate change is a fact. Experts predict a severe change in weather patterns and a possible habitat loss for mammals.

In terms of food, increased carbon dioxide in the air could possibly raise yields. But this recent study on food crops and nutrition suggests that climate change is responsible for multi-prong effects and is not always positive.

The study took place over a period of six years in the United States, Japan and Australia, and looked at 41 different kinds of cultivars. Crops were grown in fields under normal conditions and were compared to CO2-enriched crops grown with open-air CO2 sprayers meant to match high CO2 levels of the future: 546 and 586 parts per million (ppm). Today, CO2 levels are at about 400 ppm.

These experiments were tried in the past but were done indoors in lab settings and invited criticism for their lack of a real-world approach.

Bringing their experiments into the field, the researchers found that crops such as wheat, rice, peas, and soybeans were all affected negatively with increased CO2 levels. However, corn and sorghum, which use a different process of photosynthesis, experience little effects from CO2 enrichment.

In all crops in the first group, there were declines in nutrients. There was a 9.3 percent drop in zinc in the wheat, for instance.

The silver lining of the study? If we know that crops appear to lose nutrients as CO2 increases, that gives agricultural researchers an opportunity to breed plants with reduced sensitivity to CO2.

The compete Nature article can be found here

Related Articles

  • Rivegauche610

    I suggest we begin by eradicating american republicans first, providing more clean air to breathe and without them we won’t have to feed stupid, ignorant, ugly, loud, undereducated and proud of it creatures who revel in their obstinate ignorance. If I had it all to do over again, I would have found a way to point AH to the republiklans in this dying country and not we Jews. American republiklans, as I call them, are blatantly responsible for almost all the stupidity and preventable evil in this world, with maybe the exception of Muslim terrorists and the thuggish Kim family in N Korea. After all, republiklans believe the earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a hoax, just like climate change. This kind of brainless, mindless moronic imbecility doesn’t deserve to breathe the air of sentient beings. Their eradication would be a first good step to bettering the world.

    • tsvieps

      ” republiklans believe the earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a hoax, just like climate change. This kind of brainless, mindless moronic imbecility doesn’t deserve to breathe ”

      No reason to try to counter such ignorance and prejudice.

      As typical for such articles, the headline is for catastrophe. But inside the article we learn that crops are more productive with more CO2. Perhaps more significant than a 9% loss of Fe and Zn.

  • Rick Carter

    The main objection I find in this for me is that we need to alter God’s engineering of wheat or other plants again with more hybrids! GMO is an issue and really hasn’t worked well in my opinion. I don’t agree that this is the best solution. I have spoken with thousands of kids over the years relating to issues affecting their world from 7 or 8 year olds and above. In the area of global warming a little girl first voiced the simplest and most appropriate response I have heard to date. We’re not dumping cars or many other things causing rises of CO2. Even a child agrees with this ! However, she said trees make oxygen from ‘eating’ CO2 my science teacher says. I agreed! She said we’re also destroying forests and not replacing them and that it’s not right according to my dad. So, Why don’t we replace the trees and plant new ones? I bet in no time it would be all fixed! I couldn’t stop chuckling and even had tears in my eyes — told her she was right! This was back in the 70′s and I still hear that with a puzzled expression from them! Why not grow more trees? Out of the mouth of babes? Would any of this be an issue now 40 years later – No one can tell but re-engineer my Creator’s blueprint of wheat let alone others that we have already done … that hasn’t’ worked so well; again in my opinion. Have you planted a tree today? Blessing to you all!