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Genetically Altering Trees To Sequester More Carbon

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the increasing-the-world's-suv-capacity dept.

Biotech 279

An anonymous reader writes "Forests of genetically altered trees and other plants could sequester several billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and so help ameliorate global warming, according to estimates published in the October issue of BioScience. The study, by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, outlines a variety of strategies (PDF) for augmenting the processes that plants use to sequester carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into long-lived forms of carbon, first in vegetation and ultimately in soil."

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Hurr... dur... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771272)

But global warming's a fraud.

Glenn Beck says so.

Re:Hurr... dur... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771304)

Will all do respect for idiots, Glenn is an idiot.

What happens .. (1)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | about 4 years ago | (#33771276)

When we've turned all the carbon in to trees?

Re:What happens .. (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 4 years ago | (#33771360)

It'll eventually (in a few million years) end up being some really bad-assed coal?

It does bring up a point, though - for a movement that utterly detests genetically-modifying things like food, I wonder how the overly-eco crowd will react to genetically modified trees... 'course, I'm thinking they'll just turn around and complain that humanity should instead modify its own behavior.

Re:What happens .. (4, Funny)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 4 years ago | (#33771454)

... 'course, I'm thinking they'll just turn around and complain that humanity should instead modify its own behavior.

I for one am ready to pay my air breathing tax to Monsanto.

How to use the Pay As You Breath (PAYB) Calculator:

To predict your monthly PAYE tax, please enter: "Total lung capacity (TLC) is measured by adding together Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV), Tidal Volume (Vt), Expiratory Reserve Volume (ERV), and Residual Volume (RV) to come up with the formula, TLC=IRV + Vt + ERV + RV. Tidal Volume is the amount of air normally inhaled or exhaled. Inspiratory Reserve Volume is the amount of additional air that could be inhaled in order to completely fill up the lungs." Please enter these values from you spirometer readings, along with your age, weight, and physical condition - then hit next.

Re:What happens .. (4, Funny)

PaulMeigh (1277544) | about 4 years ago | (#33771704)

Pretty sure I'm below average on all of those metrics. Finally it pays off to be a smoker.

Re:What happens .. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33771784)

Or non-athletic - being nonactive I produce far less CO2 than those jocks.

Re:What happens .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771670)

The comment [] you are talking about was posted 5 minutes before yours. Gotcha, loser! (and no, I'm not Dutchmaan)

Re:What happens .. (2, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#33771372)

A global ice age hits the planet resulting in the death of the trees. Once the temperature becomes low enough and CO2 is allowed to build up in the atmosphere after millions of years, vegetation growth and the effects of the CO2 build up will end the ice age. This has happened before and it will happen again.

Re:What happens .. (1)

Peach Rings (1782482) | about 4 years ago | (#33771446)

Should catalytic converters be declared illegal?

Carbon levels are dropping dangerously low, warn climate scientists. But should catalytic converters be banned outright?

"Preposterous," says conservative senator Bert Glanstron. "The government cannot foot the bill for removing all of those converters. The private sector must produce its own emerging technologies to boost carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere before any damage is done."

Some conservatives claim that humans cannot significantly damage worldwide carbon levels, but the scientific consensus seems to be against them.

Re:What happens .. (4, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#33771504)

Catalytic converters take the toxic products of unburned fuel and convert them into CO2 + H2O + N2... If we want more CO2, the last thing we need to do is ban Catalytic converters...

Re:What happens .. snowball earth! (1)

thms (1339227) | about 4 years ago | (#33771490)

Assuming the trees are planet and the humanity stops to care we might pull out CO2 fast enough to reach a snowball earth [] scenario, i.e. it gets too cold and more snow reflects more sunlight resulting in a negative feedback loop. And maybe this time we won't come out of it again.

2530? (-1, Troll)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 4 years ago | (#33771526)

2530? But that's the combination to my luggage [] !

Re:2530? (2, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 4 years ago | (#33771538)

The parent post is a goatse link, ignore it /.

Re:2530? (3, Informative)

WillDraven (760005) | about 4 years ago | (#33771610)

Thanks to [] I don't have to rely on being warned. Just have to hover over any shortened link to see where it ends up.

Re:2530? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771684)

One would think that anyone who has used internet for the last 10 years were immune to goatse by now. Hey, I wouldn't mind having it as backdrop.

Now where did that pain4 image go?

Re:2530? (-1, Troll)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about 4 years ago | (#33771714)

Now where did that pain4 image go?

It weights 95 Kg [] . You're welcome.

Re:2530? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771594)


Re:What happens .. (2, Funny)

DamienRBlack (1165691) | about 4 years ago | (#33771384)

When we've turned all the carbon in to trees?

The human body has a large amount of carbon. Long story short, the trees will start hungering for us!

Re:What happens .. (1)

smallfries (601545) | about 4 years ago | (#33771468)

That, and a primitive form of fusion would be all that is required to turn us into 9V batteries.

Re:What happens .. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33771808)

Yeah but if there's no sunlight, what do you feed the batteries... I mean humans.

"Dead bodies."

And what happens when you run-out of dead bodies in ~20 years time?

Re:What happens .. (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 4 years ago | (#33771934)

When we've turned all the carbon in to trees?

The human body has a large amount of carbon. Long story short, the trees will start hungering for us!

Billy! BILLY!! You get yur ass outta that nanotube tree right this minute! What's wrong with you boy, you know that dang thing done et your brother Bobby two years ago!

Re:What happens .. (1)

tysonedwards (969693) | about 4 years ago | (#33771396)

Increasing the carbon density within these forms of trees would create even stronger woods. These would have significant benefits in terms of construction as the materials would be less able to sustain various forms of insect life, such as beetles. The new composite wood-carbon mixture should then have increased longevity, much like the process undertaken in pressed woods, where the material has fewer fracture points. Not that there aren't plenty of "negatives" to go along with this if we began implementing these changes. Particularly, look at cross-pollination. Various forms of pine trees are known to cross-pollinate with other trees up to 75 miles away. Theoretically, if these new forms of trees were not properly segmented from the existing ecosystem than introducing these genetically altered trees could significantly alter the ecosystem.

Re:What happens .. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771402)

We burn the trees, get some energy, releasing the carbon back into the air
then have Al Gore make another movie of course.

Re:What happens .. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 4 years ago | (#33771418)

Burn the trees!

Re:What happens .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771646)

Well, it will be a very oxygen rich atmosphere, making us happy!, happy!! happy!!!. And then some asshole will light a cigar, and booom! A giant fireball. Got admit, it's a flashy way to go.

attack of the killer tomatoes (1)

socsoc (1116769) | about 4 years ago | (#33771300)

Do not want. I've seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Just imagine what pissing off the trees would do? It'll makes Avatar (err, I mean the original... Ferngully), seem like nothing.

Just dont be fat LAMEricans (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771322)

so you can stop wasting the earth resources hauling your fat asses to the wallmart.

Subjective perspective exaggerated (3, Insightful)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about 4 years ago | (#33771336)

Yes by all means let's genetically alter tree's instead of changing our own behavior! There's just something more than a little wrong with, we can't change our own behavior so lets change the world around us so it can take our abuse more effectively!

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771392)

Yes by all means let's genetically alter tree's instead of changing our own behavior! [ ... ] we can't change our own behavior so lets change the world around us [ ... ]

Dunno. Seems like a perfectly alright solution to me ...

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (3, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 4 years ago | (#33771430)

We? Our?

Animal species use resources right up to the limit, even when detrimental to all, because they don't have the ability to do otherwise. On the group scale, humans are exactly that intelligent, so I'm not sure what you expect.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (2)

Ozlanthos (1172125) | about 4 years ago | (#33771776)

Adjusting our behavior is necessary due to the fact that other species do not threaten the existence of ALL OTHER SPECIES in their pursuit of survival. In all other cases, the survival of a species is contingent on the survival of other species. In the case of humans, because we can supplant the necessity to ensure the survival of other species in order to ensure our own, we often disregard this necessity, making our pursuits our "only" concern. This trait ensures that before too much longer there will only be us, and our "net loss" pursuits here on earth. The way to avoid this is to attempt a more symbiotic relationship with other species (ie attempting to make that which enhances our lives, enhance the ability of other species to exist)...something we as a species are entirely too self-absorbed, and conceited to do.


Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771482)

What are you suggesting, that we revert to a medieval lifestyle? I think I prefer a planet with iPods and genetically altered trees.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (3, Insightful)

Councilor Hart (673770) | about 4 years ago | (#33771598)

We should change our behaviour, but also scrub the atmosphere from the carbon we dumped in it over the last 150 years.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (0, Flamebait)

dubbreak (623656) | about 4 years ago | (#33771748)

We should change our behaviour, but also scrub the atmosphere from the carbon we dumped in it over the last 150 years.

True, but genetically modified trees as the answer?

Why not plant something that captures more carbon naturally like.. I dunno.. hemp? You know the plant that can be used for textiles, paper, oil etc.

Of course that would compete with the cotton industry.. and you couldn't have that. Just as you couldn't have sugar compete with corn production (even if the over-usage of HFCS is negatively affecting your population).

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (1)

rm999 (775449) | about 4 years ago | (#33771914)

I think the point of sequestering carbon in plants is that you *don't* kill them, because then the carbon will eventually be released back into the atmosphere - plant material is biodegradable.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (1, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33771842)

>>>We should change our behaviour,

Yes. Have less babies. I calculated that if we limited ourselves to just 1 baby per family, US population would drop from 320 to 50 million within 80 years. Fewer people == approximately 1/5th less CO2 released to the air

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771712)

So you oppose agriculture and want us to live in caves? That's altering our world to more easily feed ourselves. I can see objecting to this on the grounds of not being able to do this on a large enough scale to matter, but we alter our environment to live more easily all the time and have since we discovered fire or how to build huts (not really sure which came first).

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (1)

dh003i (203189) | about 4 years ago | (#33771760)

You do know that most of the oxygen we breathe in comes from algae, right? In other words, trees simply aren't necessary *on that ground* at all.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (3, Insightful)

Moniker3 (1913952) | about 4 years ago | (#33771782)

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. All animals modify their environments for their own benefit. We're just better at it than everyone else. Which is why we win.

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (1, Troll)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | about 4 years ago | (#33771922)

Well, we've only been changing our environment to suit our own behavior since the first caveman started chipping rocks to make the first primitive tools. We call that "technology". If you'd like to go back to before that, I believe you're quite welcome to. But don't half-ass it, go all the way with it, k?

Re:Subjective perspective exaggerated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771954)

Yes by all means let's genetically alter tree's instead of changing our own behavior! There's just something more than a little wrong with, we can't change our own behavior so lets change the world around us so it can take our abuse more effectively!

Let's be optimistic here, it's an awesome idea if you face it. Changing human behaviour isn't going to happen, besides isn't it already too late? Let's be optimistic people! :3

That's right. (1)

egibster (1913920) | about 4 years ago | (#33771344)

sk8 or oblitor8

Why not plant more trees? (3, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about 4 years ago | (#33771346)

What's the difference between planting trees that capture X% more carbon and planting X% more trees?

Re:Why not plant more trees? (3, Insightful)

KarrdeSW (996917) | about 4 years ago | (#33771352)

More land used at the very least. The general trend worldwide is that humans keep clearing land, not replanting it.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (0)

plopez (54068) | about 4 years ago | (#33771414)

So does it make sense to have humans plant uber-trees when they won't even replant normal trees? It doesn't make sense. Oh wait... uber-trees can be patented. This means that large corporations are now interested due to the profit motive. They will lobby for subsidies, and walk away with a gazillion dollars.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (2, Interesting)

Peeteriz (821290) | about 4 years ago | (#33771690)

Trees aren't replanted just because people don't bother - trees are cleared to claim land and to use that land to feed the growing population.
So planting more trees is not an option unless you are politically ready to limit food production, and the global warming doesn't seem urgent enough yet.

(Of course, the largest increase driver is that more and more people can afford to buy meat, so much of the increased output is used to feed tasty animals - but it's still agriculture for our food chain)

Re:Why not plant more trees? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33771702)

Well considering that, that's done in some parts of the APCR, and South America. Everywhere else in the world, I'll bet that there's been nothing but a net gain for the last oh 400 odd years.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33771904)

If that were the case we'd be in a much better position. What happens is that they clear the trees to grow things, then a few years later when the land is no longer productive they move onto a new plot of land, leaving the old land to turn into a dust bowl.

If we were using that land effectively it wouldn't be anywhere near as big a problem as it is now.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (5, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | about 4 years ago | (#33771390)

You can't patent unaltered trees.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (2, Funny)

santax (1541065) | about 4 years ago | (#33771416)

The price of the wood.

Re:Why not plant more trees? (1)

booyabazooka (833351) | about 4 years ago | (#33771724)

The first two posts are false dichotomies. Way to go, Slashdot. Nerds are supposed to be smart.

It is possible to reduce carbon emissions, plant more trees, AND plant trees that capture more carbon.

In soviet russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771376)

In soviet Russia, carbon genetically enginneers trees to sequester more you!

Can we get over it already? (-1, Troll)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 4 years ago | (#33771380)

Global warming not only doesn't exist, even the "movers and shakers" now realize it [] . We have come full cycle (and there are cycles) and are now in a cooling phase. Just like in the late 1970's, in the next several years, people will start to panic about global cooling.

Likely there is no conspiracy - incompetence is a sufficient explanation. Each generation has discover something to panic about, and no one pays attention to history: cold times around 1910, hot times around 1940, cold times around 1970, hot times around 2000, anyone starting to notice a pattern here?

Wow. Just wow. (3, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | about 4 years ago | (#33771428)

What next: "Majority of US politicians say that there was no oil spill this year"?

Or maybe: "You know, toxic chemicals are actually good for you".

Re:Wow. Just wow. (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33771936)

Depends really. Lots of things that are important for you are deathly toxic, so eh whatever. I'll almost bet that in 10 yeas you'll find that the oil spill was massively overblown as scientists figure out exactly how much life there is dependent on oil. And we'll see explosive microbial growth because of it.

Re:Wow. Just wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771966)

Maybe not, but we might actually realize that "all natural" doesn't mean healthy in the near future.

Re:Can we get over it already? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771432)

You're an idiot.

Re:Can we get over it already? (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about 4 years ago | (#33771512)

So wait. You're saying that a group of the people most heavily invested in the status quo believe that the status quo is going to continue? Incredible!

"Cleveland Browns Sure to Win Superbowl", says man who bet his house on the Browns.

There are a few valid reasons to question economic impact forecasts of climate change, but "The Bilderberg Group says it won't happen" is not one of them. Time for my favorite quote again:

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
-- Upton Sinclair

Re:Can we get over it already? (3, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#33771706)

Just so you know, around here, links to scientists get a lot more respect than links to 'movers and shakers.' Most of us personally probably know more about the situation than those 'movers and shakers' so we don't care what they think. That's why you are a troll (although I wouldn't say troll, I'd say ignorant).

Among scientists, there is no doubt that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will increase the temperature. The only questions remaining are, "how much?" and "what will be the effect?" Personally I am looking forward to global warming and drive my car as much as possible to encourage it, but even I know that CO2 warms the earth (ok that was a joke, but still....)

Re:Can we get over it already? (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 4 years ago | (#33771874)

And in politics, the major question is "Are we going to do something about it now or leave it for our kids to deal with?".

And living in a country that has over half of its landmass below sealevel, I'm personally in favor of "right fucking now". ;-)

Trees.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771382)

And normal trees will sequester lots of carbon too... IF WE PLANT THEM!

Something we just havent' done in all our 'green orgy' screwing around.

We had these... (5, Insightful)

RadioheadKid (461411) | about 4 years ago | (#33771386)

..they were called rain forests, we decided we didn't need them and wanted to raise cattle instead...

Re:We had these... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771438)

Cattle tastes better than trees, so the choice was obvious.

seoekibi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771400)

Science: Genetically Altering Trees To Sequester More Carbon on Saturday October 02, @02:25PM Hamburger [] Seoekibi [] samsunforum [] Ayhan [] Tarabyatour [] inceler oto []

Oh teh ironies! (2, Insightful)

Kostya (1146) | about 4 years ago | (#33771422)

I would deeply, deeply love to see this pan out and become a viable approach with scientific evidence to back it up, if only so the rabid Climatology factions would have to eat crow and maybe apologize to Freeman Dyson (you might remember the outrage from the Climate Change community over his book reviews: [] ). Not because I'm for super-trees, but just because I hate the fanaticism being brought to this whole issue.

He was metaphorically burned at the stake for those comments, but honestly, it made sense--*if* the science backed it up. And I mean "made sense" in that it's a huge issue and that would be an elegant hack to solving some of the key problems we are having. It might even open up other possible solutions--better solutions--but those ideas were dismissed out of hand.

The whole affair reminded me of the outrage over Lomborg ( who basically pointed out that the economics of the the environmental solutions espoused by the Climate Change community just didn't make sense. Or that you could have larger impacts in terms of changing society and the global community by putting your money into other "apparently orthogonal" solutions.

While it has been debated about whether these guys are "climate change deniers" (I think that's a red herring from fanatics), they are pointing out alternatives or uncomfortable facts. Let's do some science, some research, and some testing to make sure they don't have a point. If it's that important to address Climate Change, why are not ALL solutions on the table (as opposed to ones that fit a particular agenda or world-view)?

Re:Oh teh ironies! (1)

catmistake (814204) | about 4 years ago | (#33771494)

who basically pointed out that the economics of the the environmental solutions espoused by the Climate Change community just didn't make sense

I'm sure he didn't really mean 'economics.' Viewing the larger historical picture, man has continually raped the environment, whether for timber or mining or farming or fishing or whathaveyou, for profit. As no one had to actually pay for the Ocean or the Earth or the natural resources that live on or are found under it —we just found it laying there and picked up what we wanted— it seemed at the time like like a free lunch we simply sold to someone else for profit. No one would expect actually fixing something that we have had a part in making broken to be profitable, but it was... you just have to look back far enough to see who actually got away with the money. (No... didn't click your links... and I'm certain my response just doesn't make sense either... but only if 'economics,' wasn't a poorly chosen term).

Re:Oh teh ironies! (2, Interesting)

Kostya (1146) | about 4 years ago | (#33771564)

(No... didn't click your links... and I'm certain my response just doesn't make sense either... but only if 'economics,' wasn't a poorly chosen term).

Yeah, actually he DID mean economics ... cuz he's an economist.

Cripes, man, I gave you links. You could have even googled the name and gotten articles. I suppose you at least admitted you were so dead-set on saying your bit that you wouldn't want to be bothered actually getting informed about what you were responding to ...

Which kind of proves my whole point: people aren't having a conversation or even discussing this stuff, they are just talking at each other. Like you just did :-)

Re:Oh teh ironies! (0, Troll)

Mashiki (184564) | about 4 years ago | (#33771822)

Well that and warmists are 100% solidly, sure that everything is 100% positively set in stone and nothing can be wrong at all. Uh-huh...

Time and cost (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 4 years ago | (#33771836)

Unfortunately many economists seem to fail to take into account the actual difficulties of developing and introducing new technologies. They like to use the example of wartime, but in fact that isn't a good one - as military technology gets more advanced, it too is taking ever longer to get into production.

The point is that we have workable approaches in a short timescale - consumption reduction using insulation, legislation and smaller vehicles. We have workable approaches in the 5-10 year scale (wind and offshore wind), and in the 10-20 year scale (nuclear and replacement of coal with gas fired plants). All the bio and geo engineering approaches have huge potential downsides and would be unlikely to be proven safe for use, or workable in much under 20-30 years. And then we have fusion, which in 1960 was 10 years in the future and now in 2010 is reckoned to be 60 years in the future, if you believe the reports in that treehugger rag Scientific American.

Lomborg now seems to be significantly backtracking on his earlier views, and Dyson is simply negligible - he is a retired physicist, from a generation when physicists were generally quite ignorant of statistics, not a climatologist or a mathematical modeller. It is hard to find any qualified people who would support him.

The issue here is that you AGW deniers simply have a new tack - the argue that we need to do "some science, some research" because you don't like the results of all the science and research so far, and so simply extend into the future the time when we actually need to do anything. You are like people who are trying to prove that a coin isn't biased. Every time it's tossed it comes up heads, and you keep asking for one more toss in the hope it comes up tails - somehow imagining that the one tail will somehow negate the long sequence of heads. It is human nature - but it is not science, or a good basis for public policy.

Here come the Ents! (1)

SpasticMutant (748828) | about 4 years ago | (#33771436)

With the Ents will come the Entwives, followed by Tree-on-Tree domestic violence, Tree Gangs, and Tree Therapy. Tree abuse will include underage trees in Treesomes, illegal sawmill films, and drug abuse of fertilizers and pesticides. National forests will have to be closed during the Ent Wars. And people wonder why the Entwives took off...

Trolling for funding (3, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 4 years ago | (#33771450)

This is pure speculation about technologies that may or may not be feasible. What is clear is that suitable plants won't be developed in a short timeframe, and then will take years to grow to the point at which they have any real effect. By which time warming will have reduced yields in much of the world to the point at which we won't be using land to sequester carbon but to grow food.

This is a plug by the biologists for R&D dollars - why should the physicists (solar power and nuclear) and the engineers (wind and hydro) get all the attention?

Altering our behaviour isn't really that hard or expensive. Installing extensive insulation, an efficient boiler and solar PV, and converting a small patch of wasteland into a vegetable patch, has reduced our carbon usage by around 30% in little more than a year. Many people could achieve much more; a lot of people in the US and the UK still don't have double glazing, which reduces heating and aircon loads alike, and there are still far too many single-occupancy SUVs and light trucks on our roads. What's more, these things actually save money - if AGW turned out to be a myth tomorrow, the financial crisis would still be here and I would still be better off because of the actions I've taken.

Messing with plants should be a long way down the list, after simple things that can be done with established technology have been fully utilised, and not before.

Re:Trolling for funding (1)

Kostya (1146) | about 4 years ago | (#33771602)

I've heard of this solution before via people like Dyson (his infamous book review; see my earlier comment). I'm not sure this is proposed as a "just keep abusing the world and make super trees"--although I'm entirely sure there are some who would do just that. It's been more championed as an elegant hack to the big issue: yes, we can alter our behavior, but if the models are right we are screwed, screwed, screwed because CO2 is going to cook us all.

Again, I'm sure there's some loon who thinks we should burn down the rain forest for cattle grazing, burn coal unfiltered, AND use genetic trees to make it all "ok" ... but I think this is more of a solution for the carbon sequestering problem. I believe there may also be some people making some unpopular suggestions (like the economist Lomborg) who might see this as a more efficient solution to carbon with a more orthogonal approach to human behavior (such as raising people out of poverty and stabilizing emerging economies--because that actually lowers pollution while stabilizing/improving the human populace). But again, I'm not sure anyone but the loons are saying "Burn it all down and replace it with super-trees."

Doesn't mean we shouldn't change our behavior AND consider radical carbon sequestering--but I think getting the science/facts/research right might be the best no matter what solution(s) we choose.

Re:Trolling for funding (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33771928)

Indeed, technological measures could theoretically come along and make things OK, but we definitely can alter our behavior patterns. Realistically we'll end up with a solution that's a combination of the two, but assuming that we can fix things technologically is an excellent way to ensure that bad things happen.

Re:Trolling for funding (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33771778)

"Altering our behaviour isn't really that hard or expensive."

See, I think you're putting too much faith in human beings. Not only are many of them selfish and shortsighted, but they want to do anything that could inconvenience them, even if only for a short time. They will see "altering our behavior" as an inconvenience and try to write it off as unnecessary.

Profit! (2, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | about 4 years ago | (#33771488)

1) Mega-corporations design genetically altered trees to sequester carbon and patent them.
2) Lobby the government for huge tax breaks and subsidies. Then work as contractors to plant the trees. Or plant them to offset environmental damage claims from mineral exploration (The Gulf of Mexico for example).

3) Profit!

Seriously, these solutions are ridiculous. I went to a lecture by a guy from IIRC Princeton. He was researching carbon sequestration using money from.... oil companies. What a crock. It was riddled with wishful thinking, e.g. "we find an unfractured geologic formation...". It was also so complex it look like a ISO standard butt-load of pork for private contractors.

And then at the end "after the sequestration, long term monitoring can be handed off to the public sector." In other words, privatize profit while socializing risk. And we all see how well privatizing profit while socializing risk worked when we bailed out the financial system.

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771508)

Excessive oxygen produced by a runaway growth of genetically altered trees has resulted in a firestorm that engulfed an entire planet resulting in the destruction of all life on the planet.

Such a bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771556)

Changing the carbon balance is very dangerous. Be very careful messing with Mother Nature.

Alter genes? What could possibly go wrong? :) (1)

youn (1516637) | about 4 years ago | (#33771570)

it's 100% safe, the same way genetically crops can not affect regular crops... or at least that's what genetically modified crop makers said :)

Genius!! (0, Troll)

pottymouth (61296) | about 4 years ago | (#33771580)

Now if only there was any evidence WHATSOEVER that carbon IS increasing OR that increased carbon in the atmosphere is a bad thing!! Yeah, turn that little knob and see if things get better.... OOPS! The whole system is screwed up? Just turn it back right?

The problem here is that we don't understand the environment or our atmosphere nearly as well as a lot of scientists seeking funding for these studies would like you to think. Trying to make changes to the natural environment can cause just as many problems as it helps and that's assuming it helps AT ALL. Someday we may understand things enough to know what and how to affect change but that's certainly not today. To say it's an emergency (and ALL data says NOT!!) and we have to do something, anything!! is just stupid. Step one is having models that are reliable, step two is to be 100% certain that what's happening will have a negative enough impact to justify intervention.

On the models thing I keep reading about how they're getting better and better and yet we still can't predict weather day to day. How good can our models be when the path of a hurricane or the formation of a tornado or what the temperature will be tomorrow is virtually unpredictable. Oh yeah, we have a probability maps but keep in mind that most environmentalists are trying to claim they can predict an increase in global temperature of less than 1 degree in 100 years. It's not valid science and those trying to claim it is are just looking for money.

If you want to see what happens when we try to step in and HELP nature read about the history of Yellowstone National Park. We're very lucky it's still there for all the HELP we've given it....

Re:Genius!! (3, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33771754)

Pollution is still a harmful thing even if global warming isn't real. It's true that we don't know much about our environment, but cutting down on pollution would be a good thing no matter what.

Land biomass is a lousy carbon sink (4, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | about 4 years ago | (#33771592)

A simple comparison of the size of the biological carbon reservoir on land (2000 gigatons C) and the rate at which it exchanges carbon with the atmosphere (120 gigatons/year) suggests that growing trees is a terrible way to store carbon in the long term: extra stored carbon will return to the atmosphere in a couple of decades.

This is confirmed by a variety of real-world experiments in forest artificially enriched with CO2 [] and in naturally growing forests [] .

You may call a dead tree "sequestered carbon", but there's a whole ecosystem full of organisms that call it "lunch". If you want to get rid of carbon, you need to either store it in a place where organisms can't get to it (for example, in the deep seafloor) or in a form that's not tasty (for example, as CO2 or carbonate rock.).

Re:Land biomass is a lousy carbon sink (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771732)

Come, this is a global warming discussion. Quit throwing out facts.

Re:Land biomass is a lousy carbon sink (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33771950)

You don't need to prevent it from getting back into the atmosphere permanently, you just have to fix things so that it's getting sequestered as fast or faster than it's being produced. So if a tree breaks down over the years, that doesn't cause much trouble, it's counting it as permanently sequestered and acting on it that's the problem.

what I'd rather see (1)

rev_sanchez (691443) | about 4 years ago | (#33771606)

What I've always wished for is that cars and boats and other fossil fuel burning vehicles that would concentrate their exhaust into solid pellets. What I have in my mind is a picture of bulldozers crapping charcoal briquettes all over a work site.

Re:what I'd rather see (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33771956)

Not feasible, that would require a lot of pressure which would have to come from somewhere. The exhaust system of a car is designed to keep pressure down as much as possible for efficiency reasons.

Why bother with GM, (4, Interesting)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | about 4 years ago | (#33771640)

I know of a plant that can generate 4 times the cellulose per acre than trees.

It takes less than a year to mature rather than 10-20 years with trees.

It needs no fertilizer or insecticide, and is unaffected by increased UV.

It grows almost anywhere the climate is right, and that covers a big area.

Grow it, cut it down, give the nutrients a few weeks to leech back into the soil then haul away the cellulose and fill old mines with it, use it for paper, plastic feedstock, etc..

No GM needed.

The plant?


(cue old lame jokes about getting high, comments in general opposition, etc.)


Re:Why bother with GM, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771804)

The money stacked aginst that ever happening in the USA is huge...

Law enforcment
Legal systems
Jails and corrections
Wood producers
Paper producers
Plastic producers
Textile companys
Lot feed companys
Fuel industrys
Chemical companys
Drug companys
Beer companys even..

And all the way down the list to the #1 oppoisition of legalization... Drug dealers.

Yeah thats a buttload of cash stacked up vs. a smart idea. So it just aint gonna happen. Not until you get a whole ton of people to stop worshipping money...

Re:Why bother with GM, (2, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | about 4 years ago | (#33771918)

Hemp isn't actually marijuana. Listing reasons why they wouldn't legalize weed instead of hemp is like using heroin as an argument against using poppy-seeds in the baking industry.

Oh no no no (1)

sea4ever (1628181) | about 4 years ago | (#33771642)

This is terrifying.
Nature has a nice balance all set up and we've screwed it. The trees have that rate of sequestering carbon for a very good reason.
What we did is that we put more carbon into the atmosphere, we didn't alter any of the 'regulatory systems', we only put in more carbon.
Now if we were to go and alter trees I'm fairly certain that in the long term, once the carbon goes back to pre-industrial-age levels, the trees will then be the problem. I'm sure that the trees will begin to bring about 'global cooling' and we will have to balance against the trees by releasing carbon.
This is not an ideal situation. Don't go altering nature and creating another problem. What they should do is take the excess carbon out and leave nature in it's nice balance again.
Ok, that's all I have to say.

Re:Oh no no no (1)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | about 4 years ago | (#33771680)

Humans DID alter the regulatory mechanism. By cutting down the trees and preventing them from reforesting the clear-cut areas we interfered with part of carbon cycle.

Add in the extra carbon and it goes down hill from there.

aside: ever notice how we say "down hill" when we mean something negative/declining? Is it because the path to increased disorder is always the easiest, like going down a hill?

Re:Oh no no no (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 4 years ago | (#33771964)

I have no idea what planet you live on, but here on earth, nature is not in balance, and never was. The weather has been all over the map both before and during human existence. More species of life have gone extinct without human influence than humans have even had contact with.

"Nature in balance" is a fairy tale.

terraforming mars (1)

Inoculate86 (1854356) | about 4 years ago | (#33771656)

This sounds like something that would be useful for a mission to mars to terraform it.

Genetically modify? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771682)

Why not just plant more Sycamores/Plain trees?

altering man'kind' to spew less carbon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771716)

it's in the works.

the search continues;

meanwhile (as it may take a while longer to finish wrecking this 'universe'); the corepirate nazi illuminati is always hunting that patch of red on almost everyones' neck. if they cannot find yours (greed, fear ego etc...) then you can go starve. that's their (slippery/slimy) 'platform' now. see also:

never a better time to consult with/trust in our creators. the lights are coming up rapidly all over now. see you there?

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of our dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one, & the terminal damage to our atmosphere (see also: manufactured 'weather', hot etc...). see you on the other side of it? the lights are coming up all over now. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be your guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on your brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about 10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few, resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

boeing, boeing, gone.

Sweet (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 4 years ago | (#33771742)

Now, if this works out, we can ignore the actual problem! Pollution? These trees will take care of most of it...

I think it's a great idea ... (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 4 years ago | (#33771752)

Those carbon-heavy logs will burn great in my fireplace.

Big, Fat Trees (2, Funny)

b4upoo (166390) | about 4 years ago | (#33771764)

While America seeks to shrink the waist lines of its population apparently we intend to raise some really huge trees. Or as an alternative maybe we could just encourage kudzo vines to grow. We can blanket America with Kudzo with almost no effort at all.

Excess CO2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771860)

Excess co2 is a non problem, precisely indicated in the article premise. As we have more co2 in the atmosphere, the existing plants, including food crops, will suck it up. It may lag a bit, but this is what will happen. We don't even need super trees, just more "regular" trees. Excess wood can be turned into biochar to be provided to the planet's farms, for deep plowing in.

CO2 is not a problem, it is an ASSET, a valuable resource. Having a war on carbon is the stupidest thing humans can do right now. That so many greenies have been faked out by this latest wall street cap and trade SCAM is astounding. That is what is behind the war on carbon, those looters want the entire planet to pay for non existent carbon problem "credits" so they have trillions more in free money handed to them. It is a huge con, designed by ENRON, and then run with from the likes of goldman sachs, etc.

Wake up before it is too late, do your own research, see where the war on carbon came from, go find your own links.

The hardest part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33771906)

was engineering trees to have lips so they can suck on tail pipes.

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