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More bleak news about what our deteriorating environment has in store for us and our children in the not too distant future, as a result of our dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.

High CO2 Makes Crops Less Nutritious

Climate change could increase deficiencies in zinc and iron, new study suggests.

By Eli Kintisch

Crops grown in the high-CO2 atmosphere of the future could be significantly less nutritious, a new study published today in Nature suggests. Based on hundreds of experiments in the field, the work reveals a new challenge as society reckons with both rising carbon emissions and malnutrition in the future.

In the largest study yet, Samuel Myers of Harvard University and colleagues report that the CO2 levels expected in the second half of this century will likely reduce the levels of zinc, iron, and protein in wheat, rice, peas, and soybeans. Some two billion people, the researchers note, live in countries where citizens receive more than 60 percent of their zinc or iron from these types of crops. Deficiencies of these nutrients already cause an estimated loss of 63 million life-years annually.
Conducted over six growth years on field sites in Japan, Australia, and the United States, the study compared crops grown in normal conditions with ones grown in nearby experimental plots where the air is enriched with CO2 via open-air sprayers. The current atmospheric CO2 level is 400 parts per million; in the enriched plots, it was between 546 and 586 parts per million, a level scientists expect the atmosphere to reach in four to six decades.
The threat this could pose to the food supply by degrading its nutritional value and its ability to sustain life could be very serious. Fortunately we know quite a bit about how to breed crops for certain characteristics, so compensating for reduced zinc and iron and protein with new strains might be possible.    

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu May 08, 2014 at 01:07:14 AM PDT

  •  More climate science (6+ / 0-)

    for deniers not to believe.  I am at the point of thinking that facts like  

    Deficiencies of these nutrients already cause an estimated loss of 63 million life-years annually.
    will help reduce the population enough to a smaller, sustainable number.

    Meanwhile, I was awakened by some thunder plus the lovely sound and smell of a steady rain. Supposed to continue through the day.

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Thu May 08, 2014 at 01:45:50 AM PDT

  •  So, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoregon, Kevskos, JeffW, Lefty Coaster

    we've got that to look forward to. Sigh

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Thu May 08, 2014 at 03:17:53 AM PDT

  •  I can hear it now.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kevskos, Lefty Coaster

    Dear Original Human Beings,

    You must consider others too!

    Think of the benefit to your fellow citizens, like, Monsanto, Big Brother Pharma, Your fellow citizens Health Practitioners, Big Mama Petrol!

    Oh there's so much more benefit than you consider, lowly human, just think some of the grander most revered ones who suffered for humanity. Be mindful to be more of the newly unveiled brothers and sisters, now known as The Elite Species the real constituents of so many of your beloved and honorable Politician Authorities.

    Fear Not says the Ruler Lords, you will pass and your suffering will end. We designed it all just to help the great within the country!


    Thanks very much for this very very valuable information, thanks for bringing it forward for all to be reminded of. It always helps to be informed and have another chance to become more active and creative in ways to affect a change desperately needed now.

    Work In Progress...Laser Focus on Concepts of Evolving, Expanding Awareness.

    by Skyye on Thu May 08, 2014 at 03:47:40 AM PDT

  •  I still think (7+ / 0-)

    There will be some deficiencies in soils too, as people try to grow crops in areas that either used to produce other crops, or new farming areas are opened up to growing due to increased temperatures.

    Soil is a complex interaction between a lot of different living things, with a lot of symbiosis going on.  If, say, the northern parts of the Canadian great plains gets planted for wheat, where today there are no crops grow, how well will that wheat do if the local soil isn't conditioned to that crop?

    The evidence that more CO2 isn't a good thing for these food crops will be denied, but it fits in with other research I've read about over the years.  The plants that will flourish in high CO2 concentrations are things we don't eat, like poison ivy.

    •  Soil in the northern Canada (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice, JeffW

      are probably richer than the soil in the Midwest where growth is totally dependent upon input chemical fertilizers.

      No matter how cynical you become, you can never keep up.--Lily Tomlin

      by MadScientist on Thu May 08, 2014 at 05:04:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  typically, further north (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lefty Coaster

        the soil is more recently glaciated, in other words scraped off down to bedrock. Sometimes windblown deposits (loess) make up for this but usually it's thin and deficient.

        If by Midwest you mean Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri--these areas have some of the best soils in the world, by far. The reason chemical fertilizers are used has to do with mechanized monoculture, not poor soils.

        This good soil is being degraded and eroded by an inch or two each year--it's a resource that is being exploited and used up, just like all our other resources.

        Where in the Constitution does it say: "...on behalf of corporate interests" ???

        by sillia on Thu May 08, 2014 at 09:12:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I thought Monsanto already did that. (0+ / 0-)

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu May 08, 2014 at 05:55:26 AM PDT

  •  I would think the decrease in protein (5+ / 0-)

    production would be a far more significant concern than reduced levels of iron and zinc. For mineral deficiencies, one can take a very inexpensive pill as the quantities involved are small. Protein, on the other hand, requires consumption of significant volumes of food - more food required even as less is being produced.

    And still no one wants to talk about the only real solution - a significant reduction in the world's population. In fact, countries such as China that have taken the radical steps needed to insure a real reduction in population are demonized as human rights abusers. Is there really a "right" to have as many children as we please, regardless of the effects on the rest of humanity?

    I think not. And while it may be too late to save humanity even if we start now, any reduction in population we can accomplish will at least reduce the suffering those who are born are going to endure.

    •  With better organization, the earth could (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      support many more people than now live here. But even if population were reduced to, say, 5 billion, and that 5 billion were still burning fossil fuels at a rate similar to now, AGW would still occur, albeit at a slower rate.

      •  With far less consumption (0+ / 0-)

        the world could, perhaps, support more people, but not "many more". We have already stressed the ecosystems that sustain us likely beyond repair. With fish stocks around the globe collapsing, as a single example, it is difficult to see how even with a perfect, waste free distribution system we could even feed "many more" people, let alone allow the return of lands to wilderness that will be necessary for our life support system to recover.

    •  Or even the pan (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Coaster

      one uses.  Cast iron pots can add significant amounts of iron to ones diet, throw out the non stick and use grandma's cast iron.

      "In short, I was a racketeer for Capitalism" Marine Corp Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler

      by Kevskos on Thu May 08, 2014 at 06:48:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Has anyone tested how HUMANS do in (0+ / 0-)

    a CO2-rich atmosphere?  That might also be a matter of concern, if there are health impacts.

  •  quantity bigger issue than quality? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster

    For many people worldwide, now and in the future, not having enough food to eat is perhaps a more threatening issue than the levels of nutrients. Nutrient balance can be achieved in many different ways--ideally, by adding in foods that contribute more of the missing nutrients.

    For example, many modern people are deficient in selenium in their diets--adding in more garlic (a selenium aggregator) and certain nuts can answer this problem nicely. The same is likely true of zinc and iron (both minerals easy to get from the soil). Protein deficiency is a problem that is misunderstood and far, far overestimated. You can't really become deficient in protein unless you are starving, i.e., not eating enough calories. (Assuming you eat actual food and not McFrankenstein factory-created foodlike substances).

    If food is not available generally, then people will starve. If plenty of food is available in some variety, then people will make do, perhaps with some education to avoid deficiencies.

    Where in the Constitution does it say: "...on behalf of corporate interests" ???

    by sillia on Thu May 08, 2014 at 09:24:33 AM PDT

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