31 Responses to Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’
I cannot imagine what possessed the New York Review of Books to have theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson review two books on human-caused global warming (see here). It is a subject completely outside of his expertise and one that he has repeatedly said is bunk.
Dyson has previously said stuff directly at odds with the actual scientific evidence, like “There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global” (see “Freeman Dyson, Climate Crackpot“).
Then again, while he was once a brilliant theoretical physicist, he’s never been strong on the applied side of science. He was, after all, one of the “geniuses” pushing Project Orion — the absurdly impractical idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs.
The new article is critiqued by RealClimate (here). But I did want to highlight one amazing assertion by Dyson on how he believes the issue of carbon emissions will be solved soon, which makes all too clear why he should stick with theoretical physics:
I consider it likely that we shall have “genetically engineered carbon-eating trees” within twenty years, and almost certainly within fifty years.
Carbon-eating trees could convert most of the carbon that they absorb from the atmosphere into some chemically stable form and bury it underground. Or they could convert the carbon into liquid fuels and other useful chemicals. Biotechnology is enormously powerful, capable of burying or transforming any molecule of carbon dioxide that comes into its grasp…. If one quarter of the world’s forests were replanted with carbon-eating varieties of the same species, the forests would be preserved as ecological resources and as habitats for wildlife, and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by half in about fifty years.
It is likely that biotechnology will dominate our lives and our economic activities during the second half of the twenty-first century, just as computer technology dominated our lives and our economy during the second half of the twentieth. Biotechnology could be a great equalizer, spreading wealth over the world wherever there is land and air and water and sunlight…. After we have mastered biotechnology, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed. In a world economy based on biotechnology, some low-cost and environmentally benign backstop to carbon emissions is likely to become a reality.
Oh, well, genetically-engineered carbon-eating trees will solve the problem. Why didn’t anyone point this out before? It certainly would’ve saved me a lot of time.
Wait, I can improve his idea. It’s obviously too risky to take the carbon and “bury it underground.” What if it leaked? Let’s put the carbon on rocket ships powered bynuclear bombs. That way we can be sure the carbon ever return to our atmosphere….
As long as influential publications like the NYRoB publsih such unmitigated disinformation, it’s going to be a long time before this country is ready to take the actions needed to avert catastrophic climate outcomes.