While most of the news on food and climate change is focused on decreasing yields, research shows a link between rising carbon dioxide and decreasing nutrients. A nutrient-dense diet is necessary for optimum health—to sustain energy, strength, and a strong immune system to fight disease.
To make up for the loss in nutrients, we would need to eat greater amounts of specific foods that contain those nutrients. This isn’t feasible for many people who cannot access or afford a diverse diet, and it’s not possible for billions of people worldwide who are already food-insecure and live in countries that rely on a few staple crops.
Rising CO2, decreasing nutrients
As CO2 continues to increase, how will food be impacted globally?
Since plants need atmospheric CO2 in photosynthesis, one might expect a possible benefit from rising CO2. But higher levels of carbon dioxide accelerate photosynthesis until the rate levels off , and there is a point where too much CO2 begins decreasing nutrients with a trade-off of increasing glucose. This shift of declining nutrients from rising carbon dioxide causes a greater amount of starches and sugars . Plants grow faster but contain fewer nutrients, resulting in less nutritious food.
Restoring soil a win-win to increase nutrients, sequester carbon
We can’t grow healthy food without healthy soil. The loss of nutrient-rich soil combined with increasing levels of CO2 is a double-whammy on the global food supply. The impact of six to seven decades of industrial farming in the United States that has relied heavily on synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, and glyphosate has depleted and degraded the soil.
Restoring nutrient-rich soil through organic and regenerative farming, which enhances plant nutrients and sequesters carbon back into the ground, is a win-win for our health and climate change mitigation. (The Need to GROW award-winning documentary highlights how soil restoration increases nutrients and yield in crops.)
Taking local and global action.
What can the average person do if we’re already doing what we can to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels? Collectively, our choices are powerful.
Buy as much organic as possible and support local organic farmers.Choose a highly diverse diet, aiming to obtain nutrients from a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and rice, beans, lentils, legumes.
Start composting, if you don’t already.There are many methods to compost in small spaces indoors as well as outdoors. When we restore the soil, whether in our own backyards or on a larger commercial-scale, we become a part of the solution to help local farmers grow nutrient-rich plants that are more climate-resistant.
Begin to grow some of your own food. It doesn’t matter how small an amount or how tiny your yard may be. Many people throughout the world are growing food in small spaces and balconies. It’s important to connect to how and where our food is grown to gain a sense of self-sufficiency and resilience.
Support candidates who are committed to the Green New Deal which addresses climate action head-on to tackle the challenges faced in agriculture and food security. Think global, act local—go to your city council meetings, propose ordinances to support sustainable business, residential and commercial composting, local organic farming, and equitable access to healthy food for everyone.