Aug 2018 Carbon Brief excerpt. New studies out this week warned of the problems facing crops in the coming decades as CO2 levels continue to rise.
The first finds that higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere could make staple crops less nutritious, potentially pushing hundreds of millions of people into malnutrition. Increased atmospheric CO2 can cause crops to produce smaller amounts of nutrients such as zinc, iron and protein – all essential for a healthy diet.
The map above – taken from the study – shows which countries are likely to be worst affected (shaded red). As the lead author told Carbon Brief, this includes many countries that are already grappling with higher-than-average rates of malnutrition:
“Hundreds of millions of people could become newly deficient in these nutrients – primarily in Africa, southeast Asia, India and the Middle East – potentially contributing to a range of health effects: anemia, wasting, stunting, susceptibility to infectious disease, and complications for mothers and newborns.”
The second study warns that many crop insect pests, such as locusts and rootworms, will become more numerous and more voracious feeders in warmer temperatures, which could threaten harvests across the world.
As Carbon Brief explained, pest-related yield losses from wheat, rice and maize could increase by 46%, 19% and 31%, respectively, under 2C of warming. Temperate regions are likely to be worst hit, with the largest losses to crop yields expected in some of the world’s principal grain producers in Europe and North America.
Also this week, a guest post from three researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research delved into some of the policy challenges that stand in the way of large-scale use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). BECCS is often seen as one of the most viable and cost-effective negative emissions technologies.
Among these barriers are the “significant social and justice implications” of deploying BECCS at scale, the difficulties in allocating emissions reductions accurately and fairly, and the ever-present time pressures for tackling climate change. As the authors put it:
“New infrastructure built now is likely to be still in place in 2050, so immediate and near-term policy decisions will determine what happens in the coming decades. Furthermore, for BECCS to contribute to achieving the Paris goals, it must be in commercial-scale operation by the 2030s, with infrastructure for transporting and storage CO2 in place.”