Plants Might Be Better Problem-Solvers Than Humans When It Comes To Air Pollution

Australian researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has stated an increase in how much CO2 are plants absorbing from the atmosphere. According to their study land-based vegetation is sucking up 17 percent more carbon dioxide than 30 years ago.

Even more interesting is that now plants are doing it significantly more efficiently, as they use less water to do that. “We found that rising CO2 levels are causing the world’s plants to become more water-wise, almost everywhere, whether in dry places or wet ones,” the Australian scientists say.

Emissions of carbon dioxide produced by humans (primarily caused by the combustion of fossil fuels) have been growing relentlessly since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Since that time, CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million to 387 parts per million, a 39 percent increase.

Picture: Unsplash/Fancycrave

And all of this extra carbon needs to go somewhere. So far, around 30 percent of the extra carbon people have put into the atmosphere is taken up by plants. Another 25 percent of the extra carbon dioxide is dissolved by the oceans, but the rest remain in the atmosphere.

According to NASA research published last year, the Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Combining this with the fact that plants are absorbing more CO2 is supposed to have a positive outcome for us. But we should understand that we can’t hope the plants will save the world on their own. There’s just too much CO2 piping into the atmosphere, and increasing carbon uptake comes at a cost for plants. In a new study, researchers from the Harvard’s School of Public Health proved that carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere will lessen the nutritional content (protein, iron and zinc in particular) of many crops. According to this study, if CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of 18 countries may lose more than 5% of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops. Researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Picture: Unsplash/ricke 76

Whether plants are compensating the harm we had done to our environment or not, we humans should remember that we and our children will have to live with the consequences of our actions – the loss of animal species and plant groups that weren’t able to adapt fast enough, rising sea levels that will result in millions of refugees, food scarcity, water insecurity and more weather extremes. We are going to pay for what we are doing in one way or another. The best way to pay for it is to start acting immediately by tackling the root causes of environmental problems and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

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