Experts say global warming will reduce protein in staple crops
Warn may cause death of 150 million people globally by 2050
Experts have warned that rising carbon dioxide levels from global warming would drastically reduce the amount of protein in staple crops like rice and wheat.
This, they say, will be leaving vulnerable populations at risk of growth stunting and early death of 150 million people globally by 2050 due to protein deficiency.
The findings were published yesterday, August 2, 2017, in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The researchers say they still do not understand how or why carbon-dioxide emissions sap protein and other nutrients from plants.
They said that by 2050, higher CO2 concentrations would sap the protein contents of barley by 14.6 per cent, rice by 7.6 per cent, wheat by 7.8 per cent and potatoes by 6.4 per cent.
The experts said solutions may include cutting carbon emissions, supporting more diverse diets, enriching the nutritional content of staple crops and breeding crops that are less sensitive to the harmful effects of carbon-dioxide (CO2).
“If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of 18 countries may lose more than five percent of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops,” said the report.
The study, led by Harvard University, United States (U.S.), is the first to quantify the impacts of global warming on the protein levels of crops. It relies on data from open field experiments in which plants were exposed to high concentrations of CO2.
Global dietary information from the United Nations (UN) was used to calculate the impact on people who live dangerously close to the edge when it comes to getting enough protein.
A leading hypothesis was that CO2 might increase the amount of starch in plants, thereby decreasing protein and other nutrients.
A senior research scientist in Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health, Samuel Myers, said that experiments did not back up the theory.
“The short answer is we really have no idea. “We’ve looked into it pretty extensively,” he told Agencee France Presse (AFP).