When we think of environmental geoengineering to counter global climate change, we usually evoke the image of massive projects such as blocking sunlight.
Editing plant and animal genes could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and other sectors, according to a report highlighting possible uses of this technology.
An ingenious solution in the fight against global warming
One report suggests that a biological approach to geoengineering – hacking plant and animal DNA genes to reduce carbon emissions – could be a much more useful approach, according to Axios. In other words, the idea is that we need to change the entire biosphere to compensate for the damage caused by humanity to the planet.
The report, which was published this month by a science policy think tank called The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, outlines three ways we can get out of climate change.
One is the kind of hacking of cattle and other farm animals to reduce, well, emissions. In addition, the report argues that hacking plant genes would reduce food waste and that plants in general could be genetically modified to better absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
It is an ambitious proposal and, as Axios reports, risks causing undesirable effects due to how little we know about the long-term implications of gene-hacking technologies, such as CRISPR. For example, scientists have recently learned that trees that absorb more carbon dioxide die earlier. Therefore, agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and tools such as CRISPR – properly regulated – that will have to play a role in creating more sustainable plants.
That being said, it is an idea worth exploring, as humanity collectively runs out of time to cope with climate change.