The Grapevine

Scientists Fear Humans May Lose Nutrients Worldwide Because Of Climate Change

Many people, particularly children, have been struggling in low- and middle-income countries because of hunger and undernutrition. The World Health Organization estimates that in these nations, nearly 45 percent of deaths of children under 5 years are due to lack of proper nutrition.

In 2016, 815 million people were reported undernourished by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That figure covers 10.7 percent of the world’s population. 

The number of hungry people is expected to rise in the future. A new study found that many parts of the world may soon struggle to produce foods that contain necessary nutrients because of climate change and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2). 

There would be significantly lower amounts of critical nutrients, including protein, iron and zinc, over the next 30 years, researchers warned. The study appears in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

“These findings suggest that climate change could slow progress on improvements in global nutrition by simply making key nutrients less available than they would be without it,” Timothy Sulser, senior scientist at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said in a statement.  

If the current levels of CO2 remain or grow combined with effects of climate change, the study predicts that global per capita nutrient availability of protein, iron and zinc may drop by 19.5 percent, 14.4 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively.

The researchers said their study provides the most comprehensive prediction of the effects of elevated CO2 and climate change on the global food supply. The findings come from analysis of data from the Global Expanded Nutrient Supply (GENuS) model and two other data sets on the effects of CO2 on nutrient content in crops.

How CO2 Affects Food Supply

Increased presence of carbon in the atmosphere accelerates photosynthesis and growth of some plants. However, CO2 could lead to lower concentration of key micronutrients in crops. 

Wheat, rice, maize, barley, potatoes, soybeans and vegetables are the top foods expected to experience nutrient loss by 2050 because of higher CO2 levels. 

The food supply with reduced nutrients would come from South Asia, the Middle East, Africa South of the Sahara, North Africa and the former Soviet Union. The researchers said these regions have already suffered high rates of undernutrition.

“Extending the analysis through the second half of this century, when climate change is expected to have even stronger impacts, would result in even greater reductions in nutrient availability,” Sulser said. 

The researchers aim to conduct another study to see the impact of climate change on animal sources.

Climate Change A new study found that many parts of the world may soon struggle to produce food that contain necessary nutrients because of climate change and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2). Pixabay

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