Sept. 30th’s letter asked how increasing CO2 will harm plants and food.
Plants respond to higher levels of CO2 in different ways, in most cases by increased growth. But it does not translate that we get higher yield or nutrition in that process. Taller wheat is not a benefit, as it blows down easier and growers don’t want to put more straw through their harvesting machinery. Increasing CO2 causes some plants to grow thicker leaves, which later in the growth cycle absorb less CO2 and suffer more from heat, the opposite of what we want. Worse, larger plants need more water, which is already an issue in many places. But worse still, nutrients such as iron, protein, zinc and key vitamins decline in food crops as CO2 increases. This holds true for meat and dairy as well since animals also get their nutrition from plants.
On Oct. 12, 2015, at Kansas State University, Greg Page, executive president and CEO of the food giant Cargill, spoke of climate change harming family farms financially and putting Cargill’s supply chain at risk. His advice was to “tackle climate change head-on … it is already changing the way we farm, it will soon change farmers’ income.”
Several bipartisan bills are in Congress aimed at stemming harmful CO2 from burning fossil fuels and the subsequent injury to health and agriculture. Sen. Ben Cardin and Sen. Chris Van Hollen should look at the revenue-neutral Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). I urge them to co-sponsor it when reintroduced in the Senate.