A Proposal For Decreasing Carbon Levels in the Atmosphere

There is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and not only is the amount is increasing daily, but the rate it is increasing is itself increasing, as more people from more nations continue modernize, with the effect of increased carbon
output.  The long term effects of high levels of carbon dioxide are not well understood, and the short term effects are appearing today.

The most obvious solution to this problem would be to reduce carbon emissions wherever possible.  Unfortunately, this does not appear to be politically or economically feasible.  Cutting carbon drastically would also require significant lifestyle changes across the globe. When it comes to cutting down carbon output, likely the best that could be practically acheived would be to slow the rate down, which would not be enough, and even that appears unlikely.

Another proposed solution to the problem is geoengineering, which involves launching shiny particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the earth, cooling it.  This has two major drawbacks – first, it does nothing to reduce the quantity of carbon in the atmosphere, and second, by focusing on cooling the planet, it addresses only temperature, and not any other possible side effects of elevated CO2 levels.

I propose that a genetically-engineered bacteria designed to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen be released into the atmosphere.  The bacteria would inhale carbon, and in fact thrive in a carbon rich environment.

Single-celled organisms that consume carbon and exhale oxygen already exist and are well-studied.  Algae, or pond-scum, are examples of such a species.  Scientists have already discovered microorganisms living in the upper atmosphere, many of which live off of carbon dioxide.  It would be well within the capabilities of the scientific community to genetically modify one of these microorganisms and release more of them into the atmosphere.

It may not even be necessary to intervene in a natural process that is already underway.  These microorganisms exist, and are likely to continue to thrive on the huge amounts of carbon entering our atmosphere.  I suggest that we need only to speed this process along, so that the damage of elevated carbon levels in the atmosphere would be minimized.

One of the most appealing aspects of this solution is the apparent lack of side effects.  Obviously, any potential perils of this approach should be carefully considered and studied.  But the byproducts of these microorganisms would primarily be oxygen.  Other byproducts could be controlled in the lab.  These would be “good” bacteria, like many of the ones that comprise an essential part of human digestion.