Could Rising CO2 Levels Trigger a Nutritional Crisis?

By Maddie Stone ~ Gizmodo ~

A new analysis is reigniting a concern agricultural scientists have been voicing for years: That rising carbon dioxide could exacerbate malnutrition by reducing the nutrient content of staple crops.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, projects that if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise to 550 parts per million (ppm)—a level conceivable by later this century if we don’t aggressively reduce emissions—it could result in an additional 175 million zinc deficiencies and 122 million protein deficiencies worldwide. The study also concluded that by mid-century, some 1.4 billion women and children under five will live in regions facing a high risk of iron deficiency.

There are a lot of assumptions baked into these model-borne estimates, but the findings fall in line with other recent analyses. For instance, a study published last month projected that rising carbon dioxide could result in an additional 126 million life years lost by 2050 due to falling iron and zinc concentrations in crops. And a widely-publicized paper from May projected that the protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamin content of various cultivars of rice would fall as carbon dioxide rises.

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