Rising CO2 will leave crops—and millions of humans—less healthy

This article discusses how rising CO2 levels will affect food production. Scientists say certain staple foods such as rice and wheat will deliver less nutrition in 2050. Women, children and poor people will suffer most.

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will render some major crops less nutritious and leave hundreds of millions of people protein and zinc deficient over the next three decades, according to a new study.

Elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere decrease levels of protein, iron and zinc in some crops, such as rice—but not all, lead author of the new study, Matt Smith, a research fellow at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, told EHN. Corn and sorghum, for example, are not as affected, he said. The study was published today in Nature Climate Change.

“The research is not yet conclusive but the prevailing idea is that for some plants higher CO2 encourages faster plant growth, and the plant then tends to incorporate more carbohydrates, and fewer micronutrients,” he said.

Scientists estimate nutrient and mineral concentrations are as much as 17 percent lower in affected crops grown under high CO2 concentrations (550 parts per million) compared to current CO2 levels of about 400 ppm.

Comments are closed.