Hmmmm.... personally I question his comment that since farmers provide "fertilizer" to make their plants grow well, that growing techniques aren't part of the problem.
Putting plants on junk food (NPK Fertilizer) makes them grow quickly without needing to work in cooperation with soil microbes and it's the presence of and active interaction with microbes that makes the difference in the availability of a number of micronutrients. When researchers do clinical trials, they try to eliminate as many possible variables that they can, so if the goldenrod was grown in dirt with fertilizer, it might well show some of the changes for reasons other than the presence of higher levels of CO2. That said, higher levels of CO2 are likely to be a factor in plants growing bigger faster - I've read that they've linked it to larger growth rings in trees for example.
Similarly, even if it's not the whole story, I know that plants are being bred for many characteristics that don't benefit the nutritional content - think those ginormous California strawberries for example.
So I do agree that increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is probably a factor in the nutritional content of the food, and I think that concern alone is a good reason to work on sequestering carbon whatever way we can on our land, but I also think there are other things we should be doing (like improving our soil microbe diversity) that will help to decrease CO2 *and* improve the micronutrients in our food.
Jay Angler wrote:...if the goldenrod was grown in dirt with fertilizer, it might well show some of the changes for reasons other than the presence of higher levels of CO2.
There were two separate trials conducted (link to study at bottom)
1) Comparing present-day goldenrod to historic goldenrod (which does not directly address your above concern)
2) Conducting an isolated trial where the goldenrod was grown in polytunnels where atmospheric CO2 was the only variable (which does directly address your concern)
The report explains that the confidence in their conclusions from both tests is high: "...the current data do indicate a clear and unequivocal link, both historically and experimentally, between rising [atmospheric carbon dioxide] and a qualitative decline in pollen protein".
Jay Angler wrote:Who was that guy anyway?
He is a professional science communicator. He has a degree in physics engineering and a PhD in science education research.
Finally, I do also dislike how quickly he dismisses (in the video) the idea that soil health does not contribute. However I am comfortable believing the results of the study.
Thanks Matt and Dan for providing the extra links. I've followed some of them, but am limited by time at the moment.
One thing I read mentions that the lower protein may put people in some of the poorest countries at the most risk of malnutrition. Although that makes sense from one perspective, I'm concerned that the high temperature heat waves from global warming that we're already starting to see, will put them at far greater risk than the issue of CO2 causing plants to change. So far too much I've read is focused on the problems, but are not suggesting solutions.
This also makes me wonder why there aren't rules against adding extra CO2 to greenhouses? Wouldn't this be affecting any greenhouse produce that is raised with artificially high CO2? Is this the usual, what the public doesn't even know to ask about, doesn't matter so long as they're willing to buy the product? Or is this a really uncommon practice?