Higher CO2 Means Less Nutrition

David Trammel's picture

I see this comment a lot on climate change articles, "Well plants use CO2 so higher levels mean the plants will grow better, so we don't need to worry about climate change."

That's wrong...

"Rising carbon dioxide levels are turning rice and fish into junk food"

"It has been proposed that an increase of carbon dioxide is actually good for crops because it makes them grow faster, larger and in greater abundance. Plants do need CO2, but too much carbon dioxide is turning crops like rice into junk food. Exposure to more CO2 means crops don't absorb the same amount of micronutrients from the soil, they produce more starches and sugars, less protein and Vitamin B. The reduction in one of the B vitamins has Dr. Ebi especially concerned."

That 30 per cent decline was measured in other B vitamins including B1, B2 and B5 as well as B9 or folate, across 18 different species of rice, including many from China. This decline in the nutritional value of rice is an even bigger issue for the many impoverished countries. They rely very heavily on rice. Finding the same nutrition from other foods is not easy.

"One can get protein and iron, zinc and B vitamins from other sources besides rice," says Dr. Ebi. "So ensuring that people have a diverse diet that's rich in these nutrients could counterbalance the decline in rice. But that's been a difficult issue to try and resolve.

"When you look at countries, for example like Bangladesh, on average about three of every four calories comes from rice. People say, 'Well, people can just eat different foods.' As China has developed, there's been a shift from the number of people eating rice to people eating more milk and meat products. But other countries aren't doing the same. Even as many countries become wealthier, they are sticking with rice based diets.


We are going to have to really look at the effects that CO2 have on our food and make changes in the way we eat.