Could genomics solve the climate change crisis?
Technological advances in molecular biology could help fix the planet.
Daniel C. Esty is the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Yale Law School. Known for his innovative policy ideas and commitment to transformative change, Dan served as head of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection from 2011 to 2014 and in several leadership roles at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1989 to 1993. He is the editor of A Better Planet: 40 Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future (Yale University Press).
DANIEL C. ESTY: So genomics, the idea that we can intervene with the genome of not just humans but any species in a way that might harden that species, improve it's resilience to threats like climate change or make it more amenable to various medical approaches so as to ensure there's a reduction of harm. And it can also be used in plants, for example, to speed up the growth pace and otherwise to provide ways to help harden the species or improve a species contribution to the response to climate change.
So many aspects of society have been transformed by technology breakthroughs in the last couple of decades. And I would argue that the environmental arena broadly and climate change in particular had seen very little of that brought to bear despite an urgent need. And I do think suddenly that's changing. We now have a number of people that are looking at various aspects of the technology world and saying how might this help us achieve a sustainable future. And that is very much a focus of the Better Planet book with a number of authors putting forward both technologies and frames of thinking that might move us towards a climate change answer. One of the most important aspects of this in my mind is the concept of genomics, of thinking about how we do genetic modification as a strategy for improving sustainability. And the chapter in our Better Planet book that lays this out offers examples both in terms of human exposure to public health threats broadly and to climate change in particular and understanding how we might well be able to address individual exposures that differ from the general public with genomic intervention in the future sparing people pain and suffering they might otherwise face.
And perhaps even more interesting there are very significant ways that we might see genomic progress in addressing the plant and animal world. I'm thinking in particular of forests which could be a critical sink for carbon dioxide and I do think there are ways that we can make forests grow faster and perhaps serve more successfully as a sink for those greenhouse gases ensuring a better response to the problem and getting us to think about both mitigation, reducing emissions, but also the ability to set up nature as part of the solution absorbing those carbon emissions.
- Genomics is the study of genes and their functions. The branch of molecular biology presents the idea that the genome can be manipulated for added resilience against harm.
- Yale professor and editor Daniel C. Esty argues that genetic modification in nature as a way to improve sustainability should be seriously considered.
- In the book A Better Planet: Forty Big Ideas for a Sustainable Future, Esty and several authors offer actionable solutions for dealing with greenhouse gases, including genomic intervention in nature.
- Eric Weinstein suggests that science needs more imagination. - Big ... ›
- Scientists are trying revive woolly mammoth DNA to fight climate ... ›
- How Genetic Engineering Via CRISPR Will Change Our Lives - Big ... ›
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.
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- In this video, social innovator and activist Vicki Robin, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, and author Bruce Feiler offer advice on achieving financial independence, learning to control your emotions, spending smarter, and teaching children about money.
- It all starts with education and understanding. The more you know about how money works, the better you will be at avoiding mistakes and the easier it will be to take control of your financial circumstances.
Welcome to the world's newest motorsport: manned multicopter races that exceed speeds of 100 mph.
- Airspeeder is a company that aims to put on high-speed races featuring electric flying vehicles.
- The so-called Speeders are able to fly at speeds of up to 120 mph.
- The motorsport aims to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector, which could usher in the age of air taxis.
Credit: Airspeeder<p>To prevent crashes, Airspeeder is working with the companies Acronis and Teknov8 to develop "high-speed collision avoidance" systems for its Speeders.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"As they compete, Speeders will utilise cutting-edge LiDAR and Machine Vision technology to ensure close but safe racing, with defined and digitally governed no-fly areas surrounding spectators and officials," Airspeeder wrote in a <a href="https://airspeeder.com/news/2020/9/7/airspeeder-worlds-first-flying-electric-car-racing-series-partners-with-cyber-protection-leader-acronis-34g4k" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p>
Credit: Airspeeder<p>Beyond motorsports, Airspeeder hopes to help advance the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) sector. This sector is where companies like <a href="https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/business-aviation/2020-01-07/hyundai-and-uber-announce-evtol-air-taxi-partnership" target="_blank">Uber, Hyundai</a>, and Airbus are working to develop air taxis, which could someday take the ridesharing industry into the skies. By 2040, the autonomous urban aircraft industry could be worth $1.5 trillion, according to a <a href="https://www.morganstanley.com/ideas/autonomous-aircraft" target="_blank">2019 report</a> from Morgan Stanley.</p><p>Still, many technical and regulatory hurdles remain. Matt Pearson, Airspeeder's founder and CEO, thinks the futuristic motorsport will help to not only speed up that process, but also pave the way for self-driving cars.</p>
Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage