Observations suggest that current climatic models may underestimate how quickly the climate system is changing (in particular for sea level), according to a report in Science a few weeks ago (Rahmstorf et al, 2007). Another Science paper published last week shows that the capacity of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink is weakening, which may result in increased atmospheric CO2 levels in the long run (Le Quere et al, 2007).
I remember Hiroaki Kitano calling the systems biology community, in his talk at the ICSB meeting last October in Yokohama, for ideas on how system-level approaches could contribute to address the challenge of global warming. In response to the studies above, a similar call is now sent to the microbiology community by Jonathan Eisen on his blog. Research topics suggested in his post include:
Marine Microbiology Carbon fixation processes Hydrogen production Carbon sequestration Methane capture Microbial fuel cells
A similar list of priorities related to energy challenges, environmental remediation and carbon cycling and sequestration can be found on the site of the Genomics:GTL research program from the US Department of Energy.
For all the topics listed above, systems biology and synthetic biology approaches are likely to be crucial not only to accumulate the necessary fundamental knowledge but also to find ways to translate it into technological applications. Proposals, insights and visionary suggestions are more than welcome…
some additional links:
Microbial ecology meets electrochemistry: electricity-driven and driving communities. Rabaey et al, 2007, The ISME Journal 1:9