Greenhouse Gases to Result in Malnutrition in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East?
It is evident that the increasing level of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide is changing the climates and affecting the temperatures across the world. Adding more to that, recent studies at the Harvard University confirmed that raising carbon dioxide emission will result in the malnutrition as the gas can decrease the iron, zinc, and protein levels of wheat, rice, and other staple foods grains that provide nutrients to the humans. As per the report, India, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East will be the most affected areas with the deficit in the nutrient levels of these foods.
Human beings get around 60% of proteins, 80% of iron and 70% of zinc from plants, which can be reduced with the growing levels of greenhouse gases. Proteins, iron and zinc are essential nutrients of the human diet that can promote the normal growth and body development. The deficiency of zinc results in a weak immune system, making particularly children easily prone to diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, and lung infections. Lack of iron in food can lead to lower IQ, deaths of women during delivery, anaemia and fall in the count of red blood cells.
There was a recent study on around 225 food varieties in 151 countries by Smith and Samuel Myers to assess the level of CO2 in the atmosphere that can affect the health of the population.
It is estimated as per the study that the concentration of carbon dioxide will probably reach 550 ppm by 2050 from its current value of 400 ppm due to the rising emission of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas an increasing level. At this level of CO2, around 175 million people can become deficient of zinc and 122 million will not receive enough amount of proteins in their diet.
The study also reported that around 1.4 billion women and children below the age of 5 years would have their regular iron intake reduced by 4% or even more, resulting in iron deficiency diseases in almost 500 million people of this group. India, in particular, is expected to have the worst effect compared to other developing nations with around 50 million people facing the deficiency of zinc and 38 million people will face the lack of enough protein requirements in their food. This malnutrition can also be found increasing in China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya and other developing nations.
Protein and vitamin supplements can help in addressing some of the health concerns with the malnutrition, but cannot be viewed as a long-term solution. According to the World Health Organization, more than two billion people around the world are having the deficiency in one or more nutrients. Although the supplements can be used to increase those nutrients, they are difficult to distribute and cannot solve the root cause of the malnutrition.
The effects of these greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide include rising temperatures, extended drought conditions and other forms of weather conditions due to the climatic changes. These adverse effects can also have their negative impact on the plant growth and the global food system. The rising pollution and emission of carbon compounds are having several other consequences like the decline in the crop production, pressure on the livestock, and change in the location of the commercially available aquatic creatures along with decreased quantities.
To sum it up, it is mandatory to control the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to protect the future and our next generations from the serious effects of malnutrition and related disorders. Along with the regulatory measures of the government and legislative bodies, it has now become the responsibility of every citizen to focus on this issue as it can be avoided only with the collective efforts. The increased use of bio-based products, use of environment-friendly accessories, reduced use of vehicles and their regular pollution checks, afforestation and increasing plantation, awareness programs in the remote areas and other support initiatives around the world can help us from falling into the clutches of malnutrition.