Matt McFarland in CNN:
The problem with trees is that they are too slow.
Part of the issue with catastrophic climate change is that, by some measures, an incredible amount of damage is already done. Even if all the coal-fired power plants were magically turned into wind and solar overnight, and all our cars were electric, all the greenhouse gases that we pumped into our atmosphere for 200 years would still be there. Trees could, theoretically, help fix that. As they grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and, long story short, turn it into wood. But many trees only grow a foot or less per year. To not just halt climate change, but actually reverse it, someone would have to invent a tree that can grow much, much faster.
Living Carbon, a San Francisco-based company, says it’s done exactly that.
The startup says it’s genetically modified hybrid poplar trees to grow faster so they’ll absorb more carbon dioxide and help minimize the damage of climate change. Carbon dioxide has grown rapidly in the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, leading to extreme climate effects. The startup says it edits the genes of the trees to speed up photosynthesis, the process that plants use to make food from carbon dioxide and water. This enables the trees to grow faster with the extra energy, according to the company. In one case, a tree it modified accumulated 53% more mass during five months of growth, according to a report Living Carbon published earlier this year.