Solving for Carbon Dioxide

This graph is a record of Carbon Dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere from Nasa’s Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii.

Carbon Dioxide warms the planet. The most problem of a warmer planet is the melting of ice caps and an increase in water levels.

But, the other emerging story around Carbon Dioxide is the effect it has on nutrients in plants. Politico recently wrote about the work of Irakli Loladze on how Carbon Dioxide reduces minerals in plants and replaces it with carbohydrates. The article concludes with the following 2 paragraphs.

What he found is that his 2002 theory — or, rather, the strong suspicion he had articulated back then — appeared to be borne out. Across nearly 130 varieties of plants and more than 15,000 samples collected from experiments over the past three decades, the overall concentration of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron had dropped by 8 percent on average. The ratio of carbohydrates to minerals was going up. The plants, like the algae, were becoming junk food.

What that means for humans — whose main food intake is plants — is only just starting to be investigated. 

Researchers who dive into it will have to surmount obstacles like its low profile and slow pace, and a political environment where the word “climate” is enough to derail a funding conversation. It will also require entirely new bridges to be built in the world of science―a problem that Loladze himself wryly acknowledges in his own research. When his paper was finally published in 2014, Loladze listed his grant rejections in the acknowledgements.

The whole article is fascinating. And, so is the discussion around Loladze’s original paper. His central thesis is that excess Carbon Dioxide for plants is like junk food.

(That’s Lozadle tossing sugar on vegetables to illustrate his point)

So, what are we doing about the Carbon Dioxide problem? The most promising piece of technology is a concept called the artificial leaf – a ground breaking invention by two Harvard researchers. More on that on my Notes by Ada note on Medium or LinkedIn.

Just to be clear, though, this isn’t about saving the planet. Solving for Carbon Dioxide will be critical if we are going to find a way to survive on this planet. We don’t read about this stuff in the news because climate change is a dirty word these days.

Maybe we’d have a higher success rate if we stopped referring to all of this as efforts to “save the planet.” Maybe we should call it “save human beings from extinction” instead?