One of the biggest challenges to reducing hunger and under nutrition around the world is to produce foods; that provide not only enough calories but also make enough necessary nutrients widely available. New research finds that, over the next 30 years, climate change; and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) could significantly reduce the availability of critical nutrients such as protein, iron, and zinc; compared to a future without it.
The total impacts of climate change shocks and elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere; estimate to reduce growth in global per capita nutrient availability of protein; iron, and zinc by 19.5%, 14.4%, and 14.6%, respectively. “They have made a lot of progress reducing under nutrition around; the world recently but global population growth over the next 30 years will require increasing the production; of foods that provide sufficient nutrients,” explains Timothy Sulser.
“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”. The study, “A modeling approach combining elevated atmospheric CO2 effects on protein; iron and zinc availability with projected climate change impacts on global diets,” was co-authored by an international group of researchers and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Lancet Planetary Health.
Climate change on availability of nutritents
The study represents the most comprehensive synthesis of the impacts of elevated CO2 and climate change; on the availability of nutrients in the global food supply to date. Using the IMPACT global agriculture sector model along; with data from the Global Expanded Nutrient Supply (GENuS) model and two data sets on the effects of CO2on nutrient content in crops; researchers projected per capita availability of protein, iron, and zinc out to 2050.
Improvements in technology, and markets effects are project; to increase nutrient availability over current levels by 2050, but these gains are substantially diminish; by the negative impacts of rising concentrations of carbon dioxide. While higher levels of CO2 can boost photosynthesis and growth in some plants; previous research has also found they reduce the concentration of key micronutrients in crops.
The effects are not likely to be felt evenly around the world; however, and many countries currently experiencing high levels of nutrient deficiency are also project; to be more affected by lower nutrient availability in the future. “In general, people in low- and middle-income countries receive a larger portion of their nutrients from plant-based sources; which tend to have lower bioavailability than animal-based sources,” said Robert Beach.
Greater reductions in nutrients
This means that many people with already relatively low nutrient intake will likely become more vulnerable to deficiencies in iron, zinc, and protein as crops lose their nutrients. Many of these regions are also the ones expected to fuel the largest growth in populations and thus requiring the most growth in nutrient availability.
Although the study’s models limited to 2050, Sulser added, “extending the analysis through the second half of this century, when climate change is expect to have even stronger impacts, would result in even greater reductions in nutrient availability.” Researchers also emphasize the need for further work to build upon their findings, including additional study of climate impacts on animal sources, such as poultry, livestock, and fisheries, crops’ nutritional composition, nutrient deficiencies resulting from short-term climate shocks.
Quantifying the potential health impacts for individuals also requires a consideration of the many factors beyond food consumption including access to clean water, sanitation, and education that influence nutrition and health outcomes. “Diets and human health are incredibly complex and difficult to predict, and by reducing the availability of critical nutrients, climate change will further complicate efforts to eliminate undernutrition worldwide,” Sulser noted.