Emissions set to make extra 150 million protein deficient by 2050

Carbon dioxide emissions will result in millions of people facing the prospect of protein deficiency by 2050, according to a by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, which is published today in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that the populations of 47 countries will lose over 5% of their dietary protein if projected rises in carbon dioxide emissions come to pass, as increased CO₂ reduces the nutritional value of dietary staples such as wheat and rice.

Some of the affected countries already face significant protein deficiency problems, such as countries in Sub Saharan Africa, but the projected rise is set to bring to issue to an additional 150 million people. Protein deficiency can cause, among its symptoms, muscle wasting, infections and delayed wound healing, potentially leading to a host of additional health issues.

“This study highlights the need for countries that are most at risk to actively monitor their populations’ nutritional sufficiency, and, more fundamentally, the need for countries to curb human-caused CO₂ emissions,” said Samuel Myers, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health.

82% of the population gets the majority of their protein from plants, making nutritional changes as a result of increases in atmospheric CO₂ a serious concern

It was already known that a greater quantity of atmospheric CO₂ results in plants producing less protein as they grow, however this study is the first to quantify the extent.

The researchers found that under the elevated CO₂ concentrations projected to occur in the atmosphere by 2050, rice, wheat, barley and potatoes would see a drop in protein content by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1% and 6.4% respectively.

An additional study by Myers, which is also published today in the journal GeoHealth, found that CO₂ are also set to cause a drop in iron found in nutritional staples, increasing the chances of iron deficiency.

Add the findings of a 2015 study where Myers and colleagues found that the same elevated emissions are set to put 200 million people at risk of a zinc deficiency, and it is clear that in many parts of the world there is a serious risk to people’s health as a result of atmospheric CO₂.

New technologies such as this air scrubber by Climeworks could help reduce the rise of atmospheric CO₂, however far more needs to be done. Image courtesy of Climeworks / Julia Dunlop

The obvious solution to this is to make increased efforts to limit CO₂ emissions, however with many countries remaining sluggish in acting on climate change-related issues, it is doubtful as to whether this will be achieved.

However, it will also be important to focus dietary strategies on the affected countries, meaning primarily focusing on South Asia, Sub Saharan Africa and India, where 53 million people will be affected.

“Strategies to maintain adequate diets need to focus on the most vulnerable countries and populations, and thought must be given to reducing vulnerability to nutrient deficiencies through supporting more diverse and nutritious diets, enriching the nutritional content of staple crops, and breeding crops less sensitive to these CO₂ effects,” Myers said. “And, of course, we need to dramatically reduce global CO₂ emissions as quickly as possible.”

DeepMind’s Go-playing AI can learn the game for itself now

Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind believes it is one step closer to creating AI with general intelligence because its Go-playing software, AlphaGo, has been updated and can now teach itself how to play. AlphaGo Zero was only programmed with Go's basic rules, and from there it learns everything else by itself.

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Blue Origin passes hot-fire test

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Climate change makes it more likely to see hurricanes in Europe

Meteorologists from the University of Bristol have predicted that the likelihood of hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, much like Hurricane Ophelia did this week, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change.

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Human habitat located on the Moon that will shield us from its extreme elements

Researchers have discovered a potential habitat on the Moon, which may protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface.

No one has ever been on the Moon for longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the Moon also has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants.

However, in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers have claimed that the safest place for astronauts to seek shelter is inside an intact lava tube.

“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base,” said Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan’s space agency.

Image courtesy of Purdue University/David Blair. Featured image courtesy of NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when a lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Once the lava stops flowing, the tunnel sometimes drains, forming a hollow void.

The Lava tubes located by Purdue University researchers are said to be spacious enough to house one of the United States’ largest cities, and while their existence – and in particular their entrance near the Marius Hills Skylight – was previously known, their size was previously an unknown quantity.

“They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn’t have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone,” said Jay Melosh, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University.

“Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system. By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are.”

At the first meeting of the US’ reintroduced National Space Council, vice president Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration will redirect America’s focus to travelling back to the Moon.

Pence’s declaration marks a fundamental change for NASA, which abandoned plans to send people to the moon in favour of Mars under President Barack Obama.

“We will return NASA astronauts to the moon – not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said.