A study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in America has found a link between rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and a decline in the nutritional value of staple crops.
Under elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide, the protein contents of rice, wheat, barley and potatoes fell by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4% respectively.
The study – the first to quantify the risk of protein deficiency due to rising CO2 – estimates that the populations of 18 countries may lose more than 5% of their dietary protein by 2050 if CO2 levels continue to rise. This would place an additional 150 million people at risk of protein deficiency.
Emphasising that 76% of the world’s population derives most of their daily protein from plants, the study highlights the need for at-risk countries to monitor their populations’ nutritional sufficiency, as well as redoubling their efforts to curb human-caused CO2 emissions.