In humanity’s battle against man-made climate change, the Earth itself provides one of the most important weapons, a natural system that breathes in Earth-warming CO2 and exhales oxygen.
Yes, I’m talking about plants, engineered by nature itself over the course of millennia to harness the Earth’s natural conditions to turn sunlight and CO2 into oxygen and organic matter. Plants are the key to many climate-change-fighting tactics. Want to cut down on the methane gas that’s contributing to global warming? Eat more plants (and fewer farting cows). Want to offset some of the carbon emissions from your airline or consumer retail company? Buy a forest of oxygen-emitting trees. Want to create a natural fuel that won’t puff black clouds full of CO2 into the air? Consider vegetable oil (or photosynthesizing algae, which isn’t a plant but has a lot in common with them).
Plant biologist Joanne Chory thinks plants can do more. She has studied the genetics of plants at the Salk Institute in San Diego for more than 30 years, and she and the rest of the five-person Harnessing Plants Initiative team are convinced that photosynthesis itself can be exploited to create a biological solution to carbon capture.