December 3, 2023 at 12:40 pm

Scientists Create Air-Cleaning “Mother Tree” That Absorbs Nearly 30% More Carbon Dioxide

by Trisha Leigh

There’s no secret that our planet – or at least humanity – is in trouble when it comes to climate change.

Scientists in all kinds of fields are working on ways to “clean” more carbon dioxide out of the air, and biologists are no exception.

This new one, though, goes beyond global initiatives to simply plant more trees.

Scientists at a biotech firm called Living Carbon are creating a genetically-modified “mother tree” that can absorb high levels of carbon dioxide.

Source: iStock

By “high levels,” we’re talking 600 megatons of CO2 – about 1.6% of global yearly emissions – with four million acres of trees.

They’re creating these trees by making them more efficient at photosynthesis. To do so they divert extra carbon, which is normally released, back into the tree itself.

They grow bigger and faster, and lock away up to 27% more C02 in the process.

Other biologists have looked into doing the same with crops like rice, corn, and wheat, but crops don’t live as long as trees. They hope to give them larger and deeper roots that will hang onto carbon underground, even after the harvest.

Source: iStock

So far, Living Carbon has planted around 300 acres of these super poplar trees, and they’re hoping to take the trials wider and bigger very soon. Then, they can introduce variables like weather and soil fluctuations into the mix.

Critics also wonder what sort of effect these engineered trees will have on their natural habitats, and how the crops in particular could change the delicate balance of their soil.

Other detractors think it’s a distraction from taking more direct steps to cut down on carbon emissions in the first place.

iStock 1462151150 Scientists Create Air Cleaning Mother Tree That Absorbs Nearly 30% More Carbon Dioxide

Image Credit: iStock

A climate emergency is just that, after all, and trees and crops take time to grow.

So perhaps we don’t have the time to wait on them to save us all from our own mistakes.