Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Bread dough prepared with flour grown in a future climate with elevated atmospheric CO2 may not rise properly, claims Dr Fitzgerald, a senior Australian research scientist with the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald;
On the right is a loaf made from grain grown in today’s climate conditions. On the left is a loaf made from grain that sprouted in concentrations of carbon dioxide that are expected by mid-century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t reduced significantly.
So this is 2050 bread. It was baked at the Australian Grains Free Air CO₂ Enrichment facility (AgFace) in Victoria by a research group studying the effect elevated carbon dioxide will have on crops such as wheat, lentils, canola and field pea.
AgFace leader Glenn Fitzgerald said the effect of high carbon dioxide on grains is complex. On the one hand, it makes plants such as wheat and canola grow faster and produce greater yields but, on the other hand, they contain less protein. Elevated carbon dioxide also alters the ratio of different types of proteins in wheat, which, in the case of bread, effects the elasticity of dough and how well a loaf rises.
“We don’t understand completely why that’s the case,” said Dr Fitzgerald, a senior research scientist with the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
I have hand prepared fresh bread at least twice a week, for the last 5 years. There are so many variables which can influence bread dough. The air temperature is the obvious variable, but bread is also very sensitive to the amount of water, the temperature of the water, the amount of salt and shortening or fat, how long you mix the dough, the type of bowl it is mixed in (metal bowls conduct heat, which tends to cool the dough below optimum temperature), the quality of the yeast, the age of the yeast, what soap you used to wash your hands (bread yeast hates dish washing detergent – even a trace can badly affect yeast growth), the humidity of the air (flour absorbs a lot of water, humidity affects how much water you have to add to achieve the optimum consistency), whether one loaf caught more of a breeze than the other loaf while the bread dough was rising, the list goes on.
To ignore all of this, and conclude that CO2 shrunk the slightly stunted loaf, in my opinion seems utterly absurd, even for climate science.