Increasing CO2 Will Lead to ‘Most Significant Health Threat Ever Shown to be Associated with Climate Change’

Wheat Ear milk fullOf all the threats posed by climate change, who would have guessed that “[g]iven that an estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change”?

Todd Datz, Harvard School of Public Health Communications, reports for the Harvard Gazette on a new study led by HSPH:

At the elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 anticipated by around 2050, crops that provide a large share of the global population with most of their dietary zinc and iron will have significantly reduced concentrations of those nutrients, according to a new study led byHarvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Given that an estimated 2 billion people suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies, resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually from malnutrition, the reduction in these nutrients represents the most significant health threat ever shown to be associated with climate change.

“This study is the first to resolve the question of whether rising CO2concentrations — which have been increasing steadily since the Industrial Revolution — threaten human nutrition,” said Samuel Myers, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH and the study’s lead author.

The study appears online May 7 in Nature.

Some previous studies of crops grown in greenhouses and chambers at elevated CO2 had found nutrient reductions, but those studies were criticized for using artificial growing conditions. Experiments using free air carbon dioxide enrichment (FACE) technology became the gold standard as FACE allowed plants to be grown in open fields at elevated levels of CO2, but those prior studies had small sample sizes and have been inconclusive.

The researchers analyzed data involving 41 cultivars (genotypes) of grains and legumes from the C3 and C4 functional groups (plants that use C3 and C4 carbon fixation) from seven different FACE locations in Japan, Australia, and the United States. The level of CO2 across all seven sites was in the range of 546 to 586 parts per million (ppm). The researchers tested the nutrient concentrations of the edible portions of wheat and rice (C3 grains), maize and sorghum (C4grains), and soybeans and field peas (C3 legumes).

The results showed a significant decrease in the concentrations of zinc, iron, and protein in Cgrains…

[continues at the Harvard Gazette]

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  • Ted Heistman

    Oh noes! The sky is still falling!

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      I saw some articles float past (elsewhere) that we’ve passed the point of no return and the Antarctic Glaciers are all going to melt. (They were even able to partially blame it to Ozone Depletion too.)

      It’s unstoppable. Inevitable.

      What a relief that is.

      Now that we know nothing can be done, lets just drop it.

      Maybe we can worry about pollution in our drinking water, or antibiotics in our food supply or something instead. Something we can do something about.

      I am so fucking happy I’ll never have to hear about Global Warming again.

  • ikonag

    It has already increased significantly over the past few years. Yet no temperature increase since 1997 according to NASA and NOAA.

  • BuzzCoastin

    the thing I liked most about this article
    was the explination of how wee can change this disaster

    this crisis predicted by academics with no skin in the game
    and
    they should be held accountable for their fear mongering spew
    but won’t be

  • tibby trillz

    im not saying we shouldnt find something better than fossil fuels to power our modern lifestyles but isnt iron one of the most abundant materials on the planet? and id have to imagine zinc isnt all that rare either. one would think that supplements would do enough to offset anything that is lost in plants.

  • Oginikwe

    This appears to me, to be really just the least of our worries. The general American diet is so devoid of nutritional components as it is that I doubt anyone will notice.

    • Chad Burke

      Either that or we get too much “nutrition”. I can attest to that.

  • Chad Burke

    While you’re at it, check out the articles out today. New study shows the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going anywhere fast. In fact that whole trope was tracked back to one Indian glaciologist who, surprise surprise, is employed by the head of the IPCC. As if that’s not bad enough, his claim that the glaciers would be gone by 2030 wasn’t the result of any scientific study, just his opinion, which somehow made its way into “peer reviewed” publications and finally into an IPCC report.

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