Forget GREEN shopping bags, adopt a carbon-eating life form

Thankyou Al Gore, Tim Flannery, the UN Scientific Reports, the Stern Review Committee and countless other scientific reports, specialist reviews and celebrities. As a global population, I think we’ve got the message about global warming and the part people have played to exacerbate the issue.

Thankyou also for the growing list of solutions.

For individuals you can go green by rejecting plastic shopping bags, turning off light bulbs – recycling, buying hybrid vehicles…

Businesses can convert to renewable energy, invest ethically, buy carbon credits, turn of lights…

On a much broader scale, we have seen significant progress in the agreements reached via voluntary agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol on national reductions in green house gas emissions by 2050 and the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index for large commercial players. 

Nonetheless it’s still all pretty overwhelming with a clear absence of urgency or global agreement on any one specific solution. As recently as May 2008,  in further developments on global talks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, G8 Ministers from developed nations made significant progress, pledging to reduce emissions targets in half by 2050. However, they failed to reach agreement on shorter term targets over the next 20 years which scientists argue is the far more urgent issue.

Are 2050 targets too little too late?

Especially when you consider the thickness of the bureaucratic wall that protects some of the greatest polluters on the planet in the form of fossil fuelled energy operators. Clearly much has been done to plan for alternatives, although fossil fuelled infrastructure as it stands today shows little sign of slowing down any time soon. 

If individual strategies and bureaucratic strategies are too late – is there another perspective? Some think there is and have invested $billions to pursue their theories.

A number of left field scientists and researchers have emerged who are producing some interesting research results and proposing theories as an alternative to the much bigger challenge of identifying and mobilizing a common change in our global environmental behaviour.

Some of these innovators have access to a whole lot of money and have generated the interest and funding of some pretty big global players. Here are just two of those novel ideas:

Hello to a new species – the voraciously hungry carbon eating synthetic life form

Don’t worry that the global community isn’t adopting GREEN habits fast enough to halt the problem of human- induced global warming. At least $100B USD has already been invested into a genetically engineered synthetic life form which is very hungry – for carbon.

Craig Venter, the scientist at the centre of the private project to uncover the sequences of the human genome is now on the verge of creating a new synthetic genome of bacterium that has literally been manufactured to “eat” carbon. He envisages the bacterium being released into underground sequestered coal beds where it will “digest” concentrated stocks of carbon to produce a 4th generation fuel that will ultimately replace petro-chemical energy.  He predicts that 18 months will see this breakthrough from science fiction to science fact.

Understandably the moral and ethical implications of this new frontier in genetically engineered evolution has raised fierce debate. One spectator commented that he wasn’t sure whether Craig Ventor was the saviour of our species or the most dangerous person on the planet.

Turn the skies yellow

Another left field solution reflecting the urgency of the global warming issue made headlines when it was tabled by Australia’s leading environmental scientist,  and 2007 Australian of the Year, Prof. Tim Flannery (We Are the Weather Makers 2006) at the recent Business and Sustainabilty conference. At the Conference, Prof Flannery proposed that we interrupt the speed of global warming by injecting sulphur into the atmosphere to block the sun’s rays and turning the world skies yellow.  Prof. Flannery describes this process as global dimming.

On a light note, a yellow sky could play havoc with the beauty industry with women’s complexions all of a sudden looking sallow across the globe.  On more serious reflection (pardon the pun), commentators cite a range of serious impacts if such a strategy was contemplated such as acid rain, crop depletion, destruction of coral reefs and ozone depletion. The classic observation of the band-aid solution generating even more problems, instead of tackling the core issue.

We as a people have a habit of showing our greatest innovative capabilities when our back is against the wall. If we as individuals, our politicians and businesses are unable to drive change in our behaviour in such a way that will halt our effect on global warming, then it might fall back to the scientific innovators to step up as the new heroes until we can get out global act together.

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