The increase in the amount of atmospheric CO2 could lead to protein deficiency among millions of people around the world.
Climate change increases the risk of heat waves, floods, some diseases, extinction of species… and, according to a Harvard university study which has just appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives, it could also make our diet less nutritious.
Today about 76% of the world’s population pulls most of its protein from plant sources, such as cereals. These agricultural productions are dependent on the climate and the atmospheric CO2 rate.
For this study, the researchers combined the results of experiments on cultures exposed to high concentrations of CO2 with food, economic and demographic information. According to their results, if CO2 levels continue to rise, rice, wheat, barley and potato protein will decrease by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4%, respectively. Thus, the standard diet of an Indian would lose 5.3% of protein. These results suggest that 150 million more people may be in protein deficiency due to elevated CO2 levels.
If CO2 levels continue to rise as planned, 18 countries may lose 5% of the food protein from crops such as rice or wheat in 2050. At the same time, livestock could be less productive because of high temperatures. In addition, global warming could also cause exceptional climatic events such as hurricanes complicating agricultural yields.
For Samuel Myers, one of Harvard’s researchers, “this study stresses the need for countries most at risk to actively monitor the nutritional sufficiency of their populations and, more fundamentally, the need for countries to curb Man-made CO2 emissions.”
Another article published in August 2017 suggests that iron content will decrease in crops, also because of high levels of CO2, which would lead to deficiencies and therefore anemias, especially among children under five years old and women who lives in the countries of Southeast Asia and North Africa.