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Earth Science

As The Planet Warms, We'll Be Having Rice With A Side Of CO2 (npr.org) 275

Grains are the bedrock of civilization. They led humans from hunting and gathering to city-building. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the fruits of three grasses provide the world with 60 percent of its total food: corn, wheat and rice. Aside from energy-rich carbohydrates, grains feed us protein, zinc, iron and essential B vitamins. But rice as we know it is at risk. An anonymous reader shares a report: As humans expel billions of metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere and raze vast swaths of forests, the concentration of carbon dioxide in our air hurries ever higher. That has the potential to severely diminish the nutritional value of rice, according to a new study published this week in Science Advances. For people who depend heavily on rice as a staple in their diets, such a nutritional loss would be devastating, says Kristie Ebi, a professor at the University of Washington and an author on the study.
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As The Planet Warms, We'll Be Having Rice With A Side Of CO2

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  • I'm pretty sure some "nice" company will create strains of GMO rice which will replace all the older strains with only slightly more cost, contractual limits and higher levels of herbicides. /s

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Immerman ( 2627577 )

      I'd be strongly in favor of banning all gene patents: lets get the direct profit motive out of developing GMOs, so that the ones we do get are at least mostly driven by less thoroughly corrupting impulses. Lots of good work has been done in academia - sometimes misguided, but at least they're generally aiming to improve the human condition.

      The stuff coming out of corporations on the other hand tends to be entirely focused on improving their own profit margins, with no regard for the consequences.

      • I'd be strongly in favor of banning all gene patents: lets get the direct profit motive out of developing GMOs, so that the ones we do get are at least mostly driven by less thoroughly corrupting impulses. Lots of good work has been done in academia - sometimes misguided, but at least they're generally aiming to improve the human condition.

        I work in academia, and I have to ask - what century are you living in? Nowadays academics are all about getting rich (both themselves, and their schools) by coming up with patentable ideas and then monetizing them - often by spinning off their own for-profit companies.

        • Oh, there's certainly a lot of that, but it doesn't completely dominate the field, especially as you venture further outside the U.S.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        The US supreme court ruled in 2012 that you can't patent a naturally occurring gene sequence. You can patent a purely synthetic one.

        So I guess you got half your wish? Or maybe more... I'm not sure there are any synthetic gene sequences used in GMOs.

    • Don't forget patented too!

  • Population * CO2 emissions per capita = total CO2 emissions. Why are we ignoring the first part of that formula? In particular this is not a planet which will be able to support 4 billion Africans by 2100 in anything except absolute destitution. Already Africa is a net food importer.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The world could have much more arable land [phys.org] thanks to climate change in the future. Rumors of the demise of human beings or the universally negative consequences of climate change have been greatly exaggerated. When I discuss the topic with friends, I generally refer to it as anthropogenic climate improvement.
      • We're losing 1% of arable land per year. An increase of 44% by the end of the century from another source, even if it happened and the resulting soil was of sufficient quality, wouldn't even compensate for the losses if we don't stop treating arable soil as if it's expendable somehow.
      • Sure, Russia and Canada look to see some serious long-term improvements in real estate values. Most of the rest of the world though will be losers. And *everyone* is liable to be short-term losers during the transition as weather becomes more unpredictable and climate lines shift faster than ecosystems and the farming industry can adapt.

        We're already in the middle of one of the largest mass-extinctions the planet has ever seen (directly human driven, via hunting and habitat destruction), do you really wan

      • The world could have much more arable land thanks to climate change in the future. Rumors of the demise of human beings or the universally negative consequences of climate change have been greatly exaggerated.

        Rumors of the demise of human beings or the universally negative consequences of WAR have been greatly exaggerated.

        When I discuss the topic with friends, I generally refer to it as anthropogenic climate improvement.

        When I discuss the topic with friends, I generally refer to it as defense industry stock improvement.

      • The interesting word is could.

        And if you think about it: in which areas would it? And how long would go that on?
        Where would we lose arable land? And would that outweigh it?

        A benevolent dictator probably could push a master plan that the whole world somehow shares the food/arable land.

        But most likely you come from a country that will lose most of its arable land due to global warming and rather wages a war to get "food" from the "lucky winners", or force them that the world trade of food is only done in your

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Right! There is really really simple solution to this and that is frigging BOARDERS.

      The US population could be perfect stable if we stopped allowing immigrants to enter. We don't want our population to shrink so we'd actually need to nudge the birth rate up a bit. Stability can work economically though. Existing assets can be conveyed to the next generation without major depreciation.

      As to the rest of the world; well the developed world does not have a population problem - if they have the since to stop

    • That argument makes no sense. Africans probably have the lowest CO2 emissions on the planet.

  • by magarity ( 164372 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:03AM (#56673070)

    Plain white rice has very little nutritional value. Only if you leave the hull on and make it hard to chew does rice have decent nutrients.

    • by swell ( 195815 )

      Rice is almost entirely carbohydrate. Great for starving people who need a quick sugar fix to get through a hard workday, but deadly for people who eat it in addition to other foods and do not burn calories. The best-selling book 'Grain Brain' is one expose of the damage that grains cause. 60,000,000 Atkins dieters agree but I expect some Slashdotters have their own studies that disagree. Please elucidate!

      • So...rice remains great until a society is too modern and cheap, energetic food becomes a liability rather than a scarce necessity?

        Sounds like a situation decreasing the energy of rice is arriving hand in hand with its need.

      • Starving people need proteins, not sugar.

    • by judoguy ( 534886 )

      Plain white rice has very little nutritional value. Only if you leave the hull on and make it hard to chew does rice have decent nutrients.

      But it's arguably better for you without the hull. Check out Lectins [mindbodygreen.com]. People are all worked up over gluten, but it's just one of a family of inflammatory proteins. Sub clinical inflammation is a genuinely Bad Thing and the root of many health problems.

      Gundry is promoting this for a living, but the science seems to make sense.

      • Rice does not contain gluten.

        But it's arguably better for you without the hull.
        Indeed (facepalm), and that is why most Asian and European rice is eaten with the hull. Barboiled (sp?) is nothing that improves rice ... it strips it from everything except hydrocarbons.

    • by jdagius ( 589920 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @01:00PM (#56674048)

      Americans are so overfed that they tend to regard carbs as some kind of poison. In fact, for most of the world, it is the most important foodstuff, providing basic energy for life.

      The article even acknowledges this fact, and even admits that CO2 doesn't lower the absolute amount of vitamins and other nutrients in rice, but (because it is a basic food for plants) actually causes a substantial increase in the rice carb content. The extra C,H and O needed come directly from CO2. Virtually all of the carbon in plants is derived from the CO2 they breathe in. More CO2 means more growth and carb content.

      But, instead of celebrating the larger rice plants and increased rice crop yields caused by CO2, it condemns this "abundance" using typical scare words like 'devestating', 'catastrophic', 'severe deficiency' etc. This reveals the intellectual dishonesty of the "green-collar" criminals who are trying to scare the world into achieving it economic sabotage of the so-called "rich nations".

      • by jdagius ( 589920 )

        @me: "The extra C,H and O needed come directly from CO2. "

        The H comes from H2O, I should have said.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Unless you are starving, it is correct to treat carbohydrates stripped from the rest of the food source they came from as poison. You've discarded useful nutrients and the fiber that will keep those carbs from doing a number on your pancreas.

        Most people do poorly with refined carbs.

      • by epine ( 68316 )

        ... the so-called "rich nations" ...

        Double face palm.

        Half of your basket of goods could not have been purchased for billions of dollars an item a mere fifty years ago (half of health care, almost all electronic devices, and all forms of information no longer obtained by consulting long, skinny drawers of catalog index cards).

        Time to climb down off your Infowars-certified soap box. (Did Alex emphasize the importance of soap in your post-apocalyptic secure collapse-of-civilization refuge burrow? Did Alex ment

  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:29AM (#56673262)
    There is research that shows most foods we eat today are less nutrient dense than they were a century ago. Plants get their nutrients from the soil and the soil gets its nutrients from decaying plants/animals. Farming has led to the soil being nutrient depleted even when they fertilize. So we end up with food with less oomph.
    • Reading TFA makes me wonder, though, what happens if you supply the rice with additional nutrients to match the increased yield. The experiment demonstrated that when you grow rice under enhanced CO2 concentrations, keeping all other things equal, it produces more biomass, but the nutrient level per unit of biomass decreases -- thereby discovering that, if you have 30 items and distribute them among ten boxes, the boxes will each have more items in them than if you distribute the same 30 items among fifteen

  • Am I to expect the UN to pass the Thanos Initiative and thining out the human herd? It's what we do with other animals in limited space. Too many deer? Pass out hunting tags to thin the herd. Too many alligators? Pass out hunting tags to thin the population. Too many ducks? Pass out hunting tags to thin the flock. Got invasive species? Pass out hunting tags to remove the species.

    I'm just saying, we are a part of this planet. And if the solution has always been to thin out the herd so that the rest can th
  • The fine print... (Score:5, Informative)

    by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgb&phy,duke,edu> on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:31AM (#56673278) Homepage

    ... if you read TFA is that the rice grows much faster and produces a lot more in the same amount of time, but because they didn't increase the available soil nutrients to match, they are basically diluting its nutritional value relative to total yield. Which is silly. All they have to do to avoid the problem is provide the plants with balanced fertilization instead of bumping one major component of healthy growth without bumping others.

    This is about as useful as reporting that rice grown with too much nitrogen relative to other nutrients may grow faster but not be as nutritious or healthy as rice grown with a better balance of fertilizers. Or with the right/wrong amount of water.

    The PROBLEM in other words is that the rice grew TOO WELL for a fertilizer level set for poorer growth.

    Look, it's all useful information until it is turned into propaganda. A huge fraction of fruits and vegetables are grown all over the world in actual greenhouses, and standard practice in greenhouse farms is to bump CO2 to as high as 1000 ppm because IF you balance the increased CO2 fertilization against water and other nutrients, you get much larger yields, faster, from healthier plants. C3 respiring plants all over the world are growing roughly 15% faster and with larger yields than they did 150 years ago, but if you took that 15% away arguing that food crops must have been better for us without the extra CO2 you'd literally starve a billion people. This simple fact has been carefully ignored in most of the public discussions of Demon CO2, so now it is necessary to "prove" that increased CO2 is bad for plants. But it's not. Quite the contrary. With well-known, long since published federal guidelines from the Department of Agriculture. It's one of the many things that confounds the "dendroclimatologists" who claim to be able to read off global warming and past temperatures by examining tree rings. I read a study of tree growth (in general) in Europe and the increase in the growth rate and health of European forests over the last fifty or so years has been remarkable. There is an ongoing process of "antidesertification" -- deserts starting to green up again -- as a direct consequence of increased CO2. Finally, CO2 levels in the last ice age dropped to within 10 or 20 ppm of the "critical point" that would cause mass extinction of whole classes of respiring plants due to inadequate partial pressure to drive diffusion into the plants at a rate capable of sustaining life and growth.

    At this point there isn't a lot of reason to think we'll ever reach 580 ppm. Fusion actually looks like it is LIKELY to come home in the next decade, if not the next three years, and photovoltaics and batteries appear to have passed a critical point of their own and become at least break even if not win a bit as the cheapest source of new electrical power. Within the decade, we'll see more and more homes being built that are 80% or better self-sufficient in energy. And hey, one day it's not inconceivable that people will stop knee jerk opposing fission based power, and maybe LFTR or some other comparatively safe technology will take off to power the US for a thousand years or so.

  • The original rice plant wasn't all that nutritious either but was improved through breeding. Adapting rice plants to higher CO2 concentrations should be fairly simple. And it's not like we have a choice: there is no way to prevent a substantial increase in atmospheric carbon concentrations. We'll likely end up with about 600-800ppm CO2 before switching to solar, and that's fine.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:36AM (#56673306)
    inflation eats away at my income a little every year. I'm being told that addressing climate change would kill jobs and in turn wages. And you know, it probably would for a lot of people. Even if it makes new jobs there's no guarantee I'll get them or that they'll pay the same as I make now.

    We've got too many people living hand to mouth who can be easily kowtowed with threats of job loss. They'll come out and vote in any democracy against climate change because climate change is years from now and the rent's due today.

    If you want to do something about climate change you need to fix their economy first. Until then they'll fight you tooth and nail and they've got the backing of the billionaires (who don't want to pay taxes to fix things) so they'll win.
    • If you live in the United States making $30,000/year you are already among the richest of people who have ever lived, and still probably within the 1% globally. We are already living in the best economy that's ever existed - there's nothing to fix except people living within their means.

      • you're one job loss away from homelessness. If you're under 65 we have no safety net whatsoever (and a weak one if you're over 65).

        And we're not living in the best economy ever unless you're a stockbroker or a billionaire. Wealth inequality the the worst it's been since the 1920s (and yes, we're on our way to another major crash. Would have had one in 2008 if the gov't hadn't bailed out the banks at the point of a gun).

        The economy peaked for the middle class in the 1970s. Wages have been stagnant or
        • you're one job loss away from homelessness.

          That is true for a frightening number of people. However, what I find more frightening is the number of people for whom that is a direct result of personal choice. Granted, I do not have the largest circle of friends, but literally every single person with whom I am acquanted that would suffer severe financial hardship (including the possibility of homelessness) resulting from a job loss, manages to enjoy lots of luxuries. One who I can think of recently bought an expensive motorcycle (on credit, naturall

          • Same here, most of the people I know also make really poor financial decisions. I think it the 'American way' of consumption.

                Likewise, as far as a safety net, I know lots of examples of people scamming the government welfare system. There are probably facebook groups on how to do it.
            Couples not getting married with multiple kids purely for welfare, claiming food stamps/tax refunds for non-existent children... the list goes on and on.

          • but you can't squeeze blood from a stone. Wages are dropping adjusted for inflation. That is fact. Jobs are going overseas leaving people without work. Older people can't easily be retrained. As you get older your ability to learn new things is diminished. Again, this is just cold, hard reality.

            The Charities are overwhelmed. That's how it's always been. If Charity worked there would be no poor. My experience with charity is that it's either scams (like Goodwill, which is a private for profit company tha
            • My experience with charity is that it's either scams (like Goodwill, which is a private for profit company that bills itself a charity) or they're just there to give well to do and wealthy people a balm on their conscience. e.g. they make you feel better without actually doing anything of material value. I know that sounds harsh, but, well, reality is harsh. I've had relatives hit rock bottom with major medical issues and charities gave them $20 gift cards to buy groceries. The Government paid for the medical care that kept them alive and made them healthy again.

              My experience with government is that it's either scams (like the IRS, which is a partisan political tool of congress and the president that bills itself an independent and non-partisan entity) or they're just there to give well to do and wealthy people a balm on their conscience. e.g. they make you feel better without actually doing anything of material value because you've paid your taxes so you've done all you need to do to "help the poor". I know that sounds harsh, but, well, reality is harsh.

        • Wealth inequality is a left-wing dogwhistle for hating the rich. Nothing more. It doesn't hurt you if someone has more money - what matters is how much you have.

          If you think rich people hurt you, consider that you are rich (I don't care how much you have - if you live in the US right now you're rich) compared to most of the people in the world and definitely most throughout history. Is *your* wealth hurting others?

          • because money == power and power can and will be abused.

            Also, if you don't think Rich people are hurting you then you don't live in Flint, Mi or drink their water. And you know absolutely nothing of history or how the power of wealth has been abused. I'm not going to bother but I could spend days explaining all the ways the power of money has been abused.

            Bottom line: You're not free if somebody controls your access to food, shelter, health care and education. Until then they can make you do whatever
        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          None of those things are economic problems, they're social problems. The US has a magnificent economy, certainly the most powerful that has ever existed, and it just keeps growing, year after year. So much so that tiny little hiccups, barely visible on the historical graph, are treated like catastrophes.

          Now, socially, the US has some problems. With so much money they wouldn't be hard to solve. It's only the will to solve them that is wanting. Situation is similar for carbon emissions.

    • If addressing climate change reduces jobs, it would be the first time a serious massive effort that involves completely revamping how industries work, redesigning almost every process, pouring trillions into research and development to make these things work, has caused a reduction in jobs overall.

      You have nothing to worry about, though every reason to distrust the people trying to scare you into keeping the status quo.

    • We've got too many people living hand to mouth who can be easily kowtowed with threats of job loss.

      Umm, that word does not mean what you think it means.

      Note that, as a rule, if you don't know what a word means, don't use it. Or look it up first.

      By the by, the word you were looking for when you settled on "kowtowed" was "cowed".

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      ... inflation eats away at my income a little every year. I'm being told that addressing climate change would kill jobs and in turn wages ...

      You probably thought that was a safe entry point to your sob story of rampant societal decay and malaise (thus it has ever been).

      What's actually inflating is our knowledge of the world. Modern economists now segregate inflation into two distinct terms: one for goods (that which mostly comes from China), and one for services (that which mostly comes from human proximity

    • inflation eats away at my income a little every year. I'm being told that addressing climate change would kill jobs and in turn wages.... If you want to do something about climate change you need to fix their economy first.

      It's the monetary system that needs fixing. Debt-based money needs ongoing economic growth to work, and we see it in the form of inflation. Seriously, we're depleting our limited real-world resources in order to maintain a fiction of money.

      Ironically, Bitcoin proposes a deflationarly solution while it spends a metric shitload of energy. But in comparison, an enormous majority of the world economy only exists to maintain the debt-based fiat money system (via the consumerist culture).

  • by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @11:47AM (#56673384)

    Same for water, flood your plants by putting them in the tub and fill it to a few inches above the top of the plant. More is always better.

    Obvious /s

    • Not necessarily true. It's like saying your car will go faster if you put more gas into it. It doesn't work that way. We for example need oxygen to survive but pure oxygen is actually pretty deadly to us. A lot of plants are limited by Nitrogen which we add into soil (fertilizer) to get plants to grow faster. Even if plants can use the extra CO2, it'll probably take many generations and thousands of years for plants to evolve to use that extra CO2 which we're cranking into the atmosphere at a rate that

  • So the enrichment of CO2 in the growing environment makes the plant grow faster and greener. That faster growing plant produces grain (seeds) more quickly and in greater numbers. Do those seeds (faster growing and more plentiful) actually have less nutrients than the plant produced before?
    That is, if a single current plant produces 'X' grams of grain with 'Y' milligrams of nutrient, then does the CO2-enriched plant still produce 'Y', distributed over 'X+n'?
    That would fit the model, but would still be to
    • That faster growing plant produces grain (seeds) more quickly and in greater numbers.

      There's actually an inverse relationship between leaf area and seed yield. The plant has a finite amount of energy it can devote to producing both. It's been well-understood in the farming community for ages that yield of grains, fruits, root vegetables, etc. can be maximized by selectively removing leaf mass at the proper time in the growth cycle, and the scientific community has stumbled on idea more recently.

      Increased CO2 does increase photosynthesis and thus the total bucket of available energy, but o

  • and raze vast swaths of forests

    Stopped reading right here. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global forest coverage has remained stable. Mainly due to the reduction in the use of wood as heating/cooking fuel.

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