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Source: (consider it) Thread: Is climate change ruining our food?
Ohher
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I have long pondered the possible connections between widespread obesity in the US and the quality (or lack thereof) of the typical US diet, especially among the less-well-off (do we have to consume way more calories in a desperate effort to obtain actual nutrients?).

Here, however, is an even scarier possibility.

Is global warming (or rather, rising CO2 levels) destroying our food? I'm no scientist, but this strikes me as a real-but-frightening likelihood.

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simontoad
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link not working for me, but I thought the issue was corn syrup.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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lilBuddha
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Proper link

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Martin60
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Proper bollocks: tl;dr.

Put a NUMBER on it.

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Jane R
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You want numbers? Here you go. Not much use being able to produce food if there's noone alive to eat it.

However, the good news is that birds can survive much higher wet-bulb temperatures than mammals can. So it looks like the dinosaurs will inherit the earth.

[ 14. September 2017, 10:09: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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Rocinante
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It's starting to become apparent that climate change will significantly reduce the human population in various ways. Drought and reduction of land available for cultivation, reduction in crop yields, "tropical" diseases becoming endemic in the whole population, emergent viruses, flooding and other natural disasters, or just being cooked to death. Birds, reptiles and insects will be fine, in fact they'll love it. Us and the other mammals, not so much.

To quote Craven in "Edge of Darkness"*: "If it comes down to a fight between us and the planet, my money's on the planet."

*The original 1985 TV series, not the execrable Mel Gibson vehicle feature film

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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quote:
Is global warming (or rather, rising CO2 levels) destroying our food? I'm no scientist, but this strikes me as a real-but-frightening likelihood.
No. (bluntly)

What that paper seeks to show is that the combination of three things - rising temperature, increasing atmospheric CO2 and newer high-yield varieties of crops - are changing the ratio of carbohydrates to other nutrients. It seems a perfectly reasonable thesis to me. But if true this is primarily of relevance to people on subsistence diets, or those who tend for whatever reason to eat monotonous diets, either by need, habit or choice.

Crops do tend to be good sources of some things and not others. What it does suggest is that we may need to re-appraise what we consider staples to our diet. The old adage of a varied diet may become even more important in future.

On the crop-breeding angle, I'm pretty sure that the maximum-yield trope is close to running its course as a determinant of plant breeding. Issues like flavour and protein content are now as important, and I'm sure that other nutrient needs can be factored into that mix.

What I do doubt is that it will have anything to do with any obesity epidemics, which is due to factors such as massive over-eating, poor choice of food (e.g. too much sugar and salt), lack of exercise etc. rather than lack of anything which a more balanced diet would supply.

As always, those at the margins would be at most risk. That's where attention should initially be focused. The rest of us need to pay attention but we have the resources to cover re-balancing our food intakes. The factors such as availability of land to grow crops due to climate change are much more of a challenge, and will affect availability and price to a larger degree I suspect.

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Anglo-Cthulhic

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Twilight

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That's why it takes so many donuts to meet my daily requirements.

I'm seriously sad about the Florida orange crop being devastated. It was the best crop in ten years. I don't know how farmers can take the lack of control over all their hard work.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
No. (bluntly)

What that paper seeks to show is that the combination of three things - rising temperature, increasing atmospheric CO2 and newer high-yield varieties of crops - are changing the ratio of carbohydrates to other nutrients. It seems a perfectly reasonable thesis to me. But if true this is primarily of relevance to people on subsistence diets, or those who tend for whatever reason to eat monotonous diets, either by need, habit or choice.

Crops do tend to be good sources of some things and not others. What it does suggest is that we may need to re-appraise what we consider staples to our diet. The old adage of a varied diet may become even more important in future.

On the crop-breeding angle, I'm pretty sure that the maximum-yield trope is close to running its course as a determinant of plant breeding. Issues like flavour and protein content are now as important, and I'm sure that other nutrient needs can be factored into that mix.

What I do doubt is that it will have anything to do with any obesity epidemics, which is due to factors such as massive over-eating, poor choice of food (e.g. too much sugar and salt), lack of exercise etc. rather than lack of anything which a more balanced diet would supply.

As always, those at the margins would be at most risk. That's where attention should initially be focused. The rest of us need to pay attention but we have the resources to cover re-balancing our food intakes. The factors such as availability of land to grow crops due to climate change are much more of a challenge, and will affect availability and price to a larger degree I suspect.

Putting it bluntly, I think this is missing the point.

If food is less nutritious, then more food is needed to properly feed the same number of people. And it isn't much good to simply talk about changing diet if there is nothing much else to change it to (which is a reality for the billions who live in food poverty).

If it leads to changes in food patterns and prices, then it is going to affect everyone not just those at the bottom - and plant breeding (along with better agricultural practices) might be able to act against the ongoing future changes in the nutrition of C4 crops, it doesn't and can't address the issues relating to widespread soil erosion, lack of soil fertility and so on.

Tbh, my understanding is that scientists are more worried about the food security risks from increasing weather instability - increased storms, droughts, etc - and the likely increases in soil erosion and carbon losses from soils in a changed climate than any potential reduction in nutrition from food crops (the latter of which has been discussed in academic circles to my knowledge for at least 20 years).

But it does feel like a perfect storm. We've seen the food riots that happen when bread prices increase in some countries - who knows what will happen if the combined effects of climate change and unstable food prices reverberate around the globe.

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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mr. cheesy wrote:
quote:
Tbh, my understanding is that scientists are more worried about the food security risks from increasing weather instability - increased storms, droughts, etc - and the likely increases in soil erosion and carbon losses from soils in a changed climate than any potential reduction in nutrition from food crops (the latter of which has been discussed in academic circles to my knowledge for at least 20 years).
Indeed - that is what my final comment was intended to convey -
quote:
The factors such as availability of land to grow crops due to climate change are much more of a challenge, and will affect availability and price to a larger degree I suspect.
But to return to your earlier comment:-
quote:
If food is less nutritious, then more food is needed to properly feed the same number of people
What do you mean by nutritious? We take a whole raft of nutrients from our foodstuffs. The article was pointing out that a range of three things affect the balance of those nutrients. We do actually need carbohydrates. Whether these projected changes affect a given population will depend on their diets, and whether these changes might push us into deficit on any given component. It isn't just climate change that might do that - it's also recent crop-breeding. Climate needs stabilising (fully agreed), but crop breeding remains open to us to do better in terms of what its objectives are.
quote:
And it isn't much good to simply talk about changing diet if there is nothing much else to change it to (which is a reality for the billions who live in food poverty).

Of course. But that takes the issue beyond the article cited in the OP which was what I was addressing. It was asking whether climate change was destroying our food - (though it may well be changing it). So I don't think I am missing the point.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Honest Ron Bacardi:
What do you mean by nutritious?

I've not read the research but from what I understand there are less micronutrients in modern crops compared to those from decades ago. Indeed, I've seen some claims that the same (non-food) uncultivated plants which have been regularly sampled have lower levels of some micronutrients today than they had decades ago - suggesting it isn't simply about crop breeding selecting less nutritious varieties for other reasons.

Again, I've not read the research. But if this is true, I think we can all agree that the plants are less nutritious on that basis if not any other.

quote:
We take a whole raft of nutrients from our foodstuffs. The article was pointing out that a range of three things affect the balance of those nutrients. We do actually need carbohydrates. Whether these projected changes affect a given population will depend on their diets, and whether these changes might push us into deficit on any given component. It isn't just climate change that might do that - it's also recent crop-breeding. Climate needs stabilising (fully agreed), but crop breeding remains open to us to do better in terms of what its objectives are.
Maybe I've misunderstood, but the news reports I've read were not simply talking about carbohydrates.

from the politico report:

quote:
Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.
I don't understand how this can be read to suggest that the plants in question don't contain lower levels of these essential micronutrients. The ratio of carbohydrates has gone up, the absolute concentration of the micronutrients has gone down.

Granted I am quite tired today so I might be misunderstanding the point you're making.


quote:
quote:
And it isn't much good to simply talk about changing diet if there is nothing much else to change it to (which is a reality for the billions who live in food poverty).

Of course. But that takes the issue beyond the article cited in the OP which was what I was addressing. It was asking whether climate change was destroying our food - (though it may well be changing it). So I don't think I am missing the point.
I don't really understand. If food - generally - is lower in essential micronutrients, it is not then reasonable to conclude that they're lower quality?

Again, I'm tired but I'm not understanding the objection you are having here: overall as a planet - the argument goes - some food crops are showing evidence of a reduction in certain aspects of their nutrition.

The rich may be able to simply move to other sources for those missing nutrients. But I can't see how that somehow doesn't mean that the food crops which have been studied (if they're not a wider indication of decline amongst other crops which haven't yet been studied) are less nutritious than they were.

[ 14. September 2017, 21:01: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Ricardus
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I thought Honest Ron Bacardi's point - which occurred to me as well - was that if plants contain fewer vitamins and minerals, then this might cause vitamin and mineral deficiency, but it wouldn't in itself cause obesity.

To put it another way, there may be less vitamin C in carrots, but I don't think people would instinctively compensate by eating more chips.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I thought Honest Ron Bacardi's point - which occurred to me as well - was that if plants contain fewer vitamins and minerals, then this might cause vitamin and mineral deficiency, but it wouldn't in itself cause obesity.

OK sorry I missed that.

But even that's a hard sell: the main reason for trying to breed golden rice is that a simple genetic addition of vitamin A would have a measurable impact on the population.

If that is really true, it is hard to see how the reduction in vitamins wouldn't have a reverse impact on health.

quote:
To put it another way, there may be less vitamin C in carrots, but I don't think people would instinctively compensate by eating more chips.
I'm not sure carrots are a great example to use here - but surely if eating a kilo of x gave y micronutrients and z carbohydrates before whereas today a kilo of x gives y-a nutrients and z+a carbohydrates then overall one is getting more carbohydrates and less nutrients.

It's like saying that one (supposedly) used to be able to live on the nutrients in Guiness. If you drank enough of it, then you didn't need to consume anything else*

But if the brewer has changed the balance of ingredients so there is more sugar and less nutrients in the Guiness, then the guy who is drinking a lot is going to get fatter and is going to be less healthy. No?

*probably bollocks anyway

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Martin60
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Probably?!

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
Probably?!

Does it matter? Gee, c'mon.

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Martin60
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It wasn't a critique of you mr cheesy. I was running with the 'bollocks'. As someone said above, with Nixon's fructose corn starch who needs to be concerned about globally warmed CO2 swamped C3 plant (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism echoes up from the basement of my 5 decade aged out degree) micronutrients?

[ 14. September 2017, 21:54: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not sure carrots are a great example to use here - but surely if eating a kilo of x gave y micronutrients and z carbohydrates before whereas today a kilo of x gives y-a nutrients and z+a carbohydrates then overall one is getting more carbohydrates and less nutrients.

It's like saying that one (supposedly) used to be able to live on the nutrients in Guiness. If you drank enough of it, then you didn't need to consume anything else*

But if the brewer has changed the balance of ingredients so there is more sugar and less nutrients in the Guiness, then the guy who is drinking a lot is going to get fatter and is going to be less healthy. No?

*probably bollocks anyway

You're right, I hadn't read the article properly. My bad.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Ohher
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I was thinking about this as a gardener. I can keep (try to keep) my veggies healthy by amending the soil in my allotment. I can compost. I can get my soil analyzed and supply missing or undersupplied components. I can have the water from the nearby well examined and make sure the water I'm supplying isn't undermining my efforts to grow healthful food.

But if the very air is affecting my veggies' vitamins and minerals, and converting my tomatoes and eggplants and carrots and pak choi, etc., into more carbohydrates, how am I supposed to deal with that?

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Barnabas62
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Some things we can control personally. The changing climate isn't one of those those. Even the concerted action of governments can only mitigate effects. Stopping the rise, reversing the rise, of CO2 levels is a pretty long term project, given current knowledge.

I think there are real dangers to food production arising from climate change. This article is three years old. It points to different bad effects than the speculation in this thread. These are measurable and so the predictions can be monitored. But the news isn't good.

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Martin60
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So far so bad, for the -2% / decade forecast, three years in: +2% based on FAO wheat production figures. Closing stocks are rising by approaching 3% over that period.

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Martin60
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Annual world population growth was 1.2% trending down.

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Martin60
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OK. I don't know how I interpreted the source figures, even which. I zotted my spreadsheet. I'm so wrong. Like the Guardian article.

Like me, I'm sure they'll be right in the long run ...

In the three years from 2014 wheat production has gone up nearly 7%, ending stocks 20% against population growth of less than 4%.

I've kept the spreadsheet this time, downloaded from the FAO.

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Ohher
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Martin, I don't understand what you're on about.

If I understand the content, the changes postulated in the original article don't necessarily affect crop yields, which may well go up as CO2 levels continue to rise. The problem lies within the changing nutritive value of those yields to the humans eating them.

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Martin60
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Aye, but that's not what B62 was on about, food security, which is far more portentous. Nutritional value is even more suspect. A second order consideration.

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Barnabas62
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I got it, Martin. The measurable global increases, in percentage terms greater than population growth, represent short term good news. I'm thinking the real long term issue may be loss or damage to low-lying grain-producing land as a result of rises in sea levels, maybe coupled with destabilised weather patterns. But the stats don't reflect that - as yet.

One of the issues here is the avoidance of scare-mongering, premature wolf-crying. Just as dangerous as head in the sand complacency.

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Martin60
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I'm all for the best possible stewardship regardless of how resilient the Earth is to abuse. It makes us good tenants.

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Golden Key
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Plus we are part of the Earth system/being/Nature, and we can't be anything else. It's like part of a body not caring what happens to the rest of the body--or, even worse, actively harming the body.

What happens to the Earth happens to us, in one way or another.

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--"Oh bat bladders, do you have to bring common sense into this?"--Dragon, "Jane & the Dragon"
--"I'm not giving up--and neither should you." --SNL

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
Plus we are part of the Earth system/being/Nature, and we can't be anything else. It's like part of a body not caring what happens to the rest of the body--or, even worse, actively harming the body.

What happens to the Earth happens to us, in one way or another.

I'd say we're smoking crack or ice, except we're pushers and pimps smoking oil, great big gobs of black sludge, Texas tea, Saudi gold, Canadian son of a beach tar sands. The skeletons of forgotten ancestors. #Exxonknew and so did big tobacco.
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Boogie

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This looks hopeful.

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Jane R
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Maybe someday electric passenger planes will be viable and sustainable. But not today.

Batteries are heavy and made from rare metals (not particularly environmentally friendly). Also, the electricity stored in them is only as green as the method used to generate it.

And I see they're only proposing to use electric planes for short-haul flights under 2 hours. Perhaps we should dust off some of those ocean liners?

[ 27. September 2017, 11:29: Message edited by: Jane R ]

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