Academics Slam Claims Biotech Could Solve the Climate Crisis

Essay by Eric Worrall

University of Canterbury academics Tessa Hiscox and Professor Jack Heinemann think claims biotech could rescue us from the climate crisis are delaying real progress.

Chasing future biotech solutions to climate change risks delaying action in the present – it may even make things worse

Published: November 29, 2022 6.04am AEDT

Tessa Hiscox Microbiology PhD Candidate, University of Canterbury
Jack Heinemann Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury

Published: November 29, 2022 6.04am AEDT

The world is under growing pressure to find sustainable options to cut emissions or lessen the impacts of climate change. 

Technology entrepreneurs from around the globe claim to have the solutions – not just yet, but soon. The biotech sector in particular is now using climate change as an urgent argument for more government fundingpublic support and fewer regulatory hurdles for their industry.

But the urgency of climate change creates greater risk of superficial claims and actions. In our new research, we describe how the current “technology push” cycle perpetually promises to rescue humanity from climate change, and in doing so, delays real progress.

The pipeline for salvation technology is long and the benefit is hypothetical. Like the character Wimpy from Popeye, technology developers want their hamburger today but will pay back society with climate solutions on some future Tuesday.

Biotechnologies could make valuable contributions to halting or ameliorating the impacts of climate change. Contributions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or better adapt plants to the changing climate would help. However, these address the symptoms, not the cause of environmental degradation. 

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In my opinion claims any problems from global warming aren’t solvable by technological adaption are absurd.

We know Earth’s ecology can adapt to much warmer temperatures, because it has already done so many times in the past. For example, one of my favourite periods, the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, 5-8C hotter than today, was a world of tropical forests bursting with fruit, and abundant animals and fish. Perfect conditions for our Primate ancestors, who notably thrived and colonised much of the planet during this period of extreme warmth.

Every species alive today is descended from ancestors which survived and likely thrived during that period of extreme warmth.

If biotechnology professors cannot help us replicate changes we know nature is capable of performing on its own, maybe we need some new biotechnology professors.

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November 30, 2022 2:09 pm

Anything can solve a non existent problem.

Philip CM
November 30, 2022 2:10 pm

University of Canterbury academics Tessa Hiscox and Professor Jack Heinemann to biotech, Get your own corporate sugar Daddy. Don’t be poaching off our ‘Big Government’. 🤣🤣🤣

November 30, 2022 2:16 pm

It worked for the boy (supposedly) who cried wolf.

Tom Halla
November 30, 2022 2:51 pm

But it is an article of Green faith that any change is bad, and that there is no acceptable solution that does not inflict suffering in people.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 30, 2022 3:22 pm

Their supposition that nothing that is done can have any effect on the “environment”, which is everywhere, leads to total paralysis. The only option is to die, as every action that you take, no matter how small, has an impact on the environment you are in in some way. Inevitably, fallible humans will make decisions that have adverse impacts on the environment, whether foreseen or unforeseen, they can also make decisions that have unforeseen environmental benefits, which are again relative. For example, irrigating a desert will allow more food to be produced, but will change the environment such that it is no longer suited to the previous inhabitants. Is that change good or bad? That depends on where you look at it from. But to avoid all action that could impact the environment is to do nothing at all. That is the behavior of a death cult.

Tom Halla
Reply to  MarkH
November 30, 2022 3:33 pm

They have been a death cult for a long time.

David Kamakaris
November 30, 2022 3:02 pm

What climate crisis? Someone come forth and tell all of us here what it is we have so wrong. And if you are unable to do so, then stop with this climate crisis nonsense.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Eric Worrall
November 30, 2022 3:46 pm

If you listen closely to NWO ideologue scientists, there is always a big self-revealing ‘tell’ in their simplistic arguments. e.g.

“The pipeline for salvation technology is long and the benefit is hypothetical. Like the character Wimpy from Popeye, technology developers want their hamburger today but will pay back society with climate solutions on some future Tuesday.”

No true words have been spoken about the very renewables technology that these climateers offer as a solution!!

Reply to  Eric Worrall
December 1, 2022 3:44 am

white mans version of aboriginal “humbugging relatives”

November 30, 2022 3:14 pm

maybe we need some new biotechnology professors

More likely we need to be concerned about far fewer imaginary problems (i.e. none) with the current benign warm period, now possibly turning colder (which could mean some real problems on the current political trajectory).

November 30, 2022 4:08 pm

Climate crisis narratives have nothing to do with environment or human welfare.

November 30, 2022 4:09 pm

Earth went through more severe “global warming” 117k years ago that ended the last interglacial 5 precession cycles ago. The warming in the northern hemisphere was not the problem for living organisms; it was the mountains of ice and lower sea levels that the warming induced.

What everyone needs to understand.

  1. It takes EIGHT times more energy to form ice on land as it takes to melt it. That means glaciation is energy intensive – it only happens when the Northern Hemisphere is warm.
  2. Ocean store heat while land stores ice.
  3. The surface of ice mountains cannot get much above 0C so they cause land cooling,
  4. Once the glaciers start calving into the oceans in great numbers they eventually outdo the heat input from the sun and the whole globe cools, which last bottomed just one precession cycle ago (23kyr)

The NH is close to the point of having enough heat to get enough snow on land so it forms faster than it can melt. Greenland the only region currently doing that.

Some of the observations regarding “global warming” are accurate. “Climate change” is more accurate description but “termination of the modern interglacial” is most accurate. The seriously misinformed idea is that CO2 has anything at all to do with what is being observed.

John Hultquist
November 30, 2022 4:49 pm

Many of the articles of this sort have a lead author that is working on an advanced degree. To me, this indicates the person has spent most of their functional hours (those not sleeping, eating, going to parties, etc.) in classes and in front of a computer. The state of the art in computers when I was that age was not much advanced from the ENIAC. Slide rules were the norm and then Friden Electronic Calculators.

There is a Climate Cult but no climate crisis. There isn’t a lot of funding for writing about a non-problem.

November 30, 2022 5:34 pm

As gas shortages hit across Europe, there will be a reporting quandary. There will be pressure to report higher domestic gas usage on lower temperature. But how does lower temperature reconcile with “global warming”

Let’s just accept it is global wierding – higher temperature and more snow. Identical to what was experienced 117k years ago.

Scarecrow Repair
November 30, 2022 6:00 pm

Technology entrepreneurs from around the globe claim to have the solutions – not just yet, but soon. The biotech sector in particular is now using climate change as an urgent argument for more government fundingpublic support and fewer regulatory hurdles for their industry.

Smells like …. jealousy! All these years, and some damned upstart threatens to take their cake and eat it too.

November 30, 2022 9:50 pm

It’s entertaining to watch people who don’t know what they’re talking about argue with other people who don’t know what they’re talking about over a non-solution to a non-problem that they think is better than the non-solution to a non-problem proposed by the the other people. Somewhere a rodeo is searching for its missing clowns.

Reply to  stinkerp
December 1, 2022 2:04 am

THANKS—-:A good insight into the world of WOKE.

Peta of Newark
November 30, 2022 11:50 pm

All the existing ‘bio’ is perfectly suited, fitted and is well up to the job. We don’t need no more.

What is needed is to feed the existing ‘bio’
and stop digging it up, burning, drowning and poisoning it in the pursuit of sugar.

We could carry on with those activities if there was something there, in any great quantity, in the first place.
To get that, simply feed what we have got

No: CO2, nitrogen and or water are NOT what’s needed – the mountain where they measure CO2 is trying to give some sort of hint. <chuckles>
and here on Planet Self-Important & Dumb, we are guaranteed to misunderstand

AGW is Not Science
December 1, 2022 3:35 am

Only THEIR (non)”solution” to the (imaginary) “crisis” will do.

Because it is a political agenda, the imaginary “crisis” being nothing more than their justification for taking a wrecking ball to modern civilization.

We can’t have people living comfortable lives with a decent standard of living, because that doesn’t satisfy the zeal of the political classes for money and power.

December 1, 2022 3:43 am

some chap on abc radio think science show repeat today? raving this price mentioned compound that can store 20% of its weight in co2
when asked about the co2 output of a powerplant and how MUCH of magic elixir was required…it rather fell over in a steaming heap
hundreds of thousands of tonnes of it needed, per plant of course
did give me a laugh

Andy Pattullo
December 1, 2022 10:59 am

Well of course Biotech can solve the problem, so can a large pile of belly-button lint, or just doing nothing. That’s how imposing the problem is. It solves itself when it turns out the problem is just imaginary.

December 1, 2022 3:55 pm

I am far more afraid that we cannot sustain adequate emissions than I am of climate change. Sinks are increasing faster than emissions. We are likely dependent on rising CO2, especially for subsistence farming.

My worst nightmare is someone figures out an economical way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The deleterious effects would probably get blamed on climate change and we’d disastrously double down on efforts to remove CO2.


Last edited 2 months ago by aaron
December 1, 2022 8:28 pm

But there is no climate crisis.

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