The Paris climate conference last December was heralded as the first major breakthrough to set concrete targets for dealing with global climate change. The signatories, including the major industrial nations, finally agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global temperature increase to 2°C from pre‐industrial levels by 2100. In addition, Article 5 of the Paris agreement requires that “Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases” (http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09.pdf). While it does not explicitly mention it, the agreement thereby throws down a gauntlet to scientists and biotechnology to accelerate their efforts on creating technologies that would help the world to keep atmospheric CO2 levels in check while preserving the environment.
… agriculture and forestry are fertile grounds for applying biotechnology: they are not just major contributors to climate warming but also play a potential role in reducing emissions.
Indeed, agriculture and forestry are fertile grounds for applying biotechnology: They are not just major contributors to climate warming but also play a potential role in reducing emissions. Agriculture generates more than a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the combined impact of forest fires and deforestation accounts for another 20% (http://www.un-redd.org/aboutredd). Vice versa, forests are major carbon sinks and have a lot of potential to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. Agriculture will have to play a crucial role for sustainable energy production.
The task for molecular biology would fall into two categories while overlapping with a third. The first is the development of new technologies for solar energy conversion, not just for generating electricity, but also for synthesizing carbohydrates from atmospheric CO2 for fuel and as raw material for the chemical industry. The second category focuses on plant biotechnology to increase food production and carbon sequestration. …