Representative Subtheme Challenge:

CCS-03: Reducing CO2 and Other Harmful Gases

Imagine a future where our daily urban landscapes are interspersed with micro-forests and community gardens, utilizing plants genetically optimized to sequester carbon more efficiently. These green havens, thriving in previously underutilized spaces, are a direct result of breakthroughs in plant biotechnology, targeting both CO2 and methane reduction. Additionally, urban structures are constructed using advanced, carbon-absorbing building materials, developed through bio-manufacturing processes that repurpose atmospheric gasses. This innovative approach to city planning, combining biological carbon capture with practical urban development, not only combats climate change but also fosters sustainable community growth. This scenario demonstrates how the bioeconomy can transform environmental challenges into opportunities for a healthier, greener world.

A pressing challenge in addressing climate change is the diverse and widespread nature of harmful gas emissions, including CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide. To meet global goals for net zero emissions by 2050 and limit global temperature rise, it will not be sufficient to only reduce emissions. In addition, we must implement a multi-pronged strategy for removing harmful atmospheric gasses that includes natural solutions (forests, soils and wetlands), engineered methods (such as direct air capture), and hybrid approaches (such as biomass carbon removal and storage). Biological systems, such as plants, algae, and microbes, offer promising solutions both for removing harmful gasses and for generating value through the potential cyclic reuse of these gasses into useful products.

CASA-Bio stakeholders representing government, industry, and non-profit sectors, identified areas of mutual interest where concerted effort among them may lead more quickly to the realization of the envisioned future. These are a few of their ideas. R&D could focus on use of biological systems for various modes of carbon removal, including direct air capture, point source collection, or sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere and storage underground or in long-lived products. Biological engineering could produce organisms more able to take up carbon and convert it to short- and medium-chain compounds for chemical production. Further, engineering organisms for enhanced carbon fixation, methane reduction in animal ruminants, and efficient biological systems for gas separation will be crucial. Community-driven roadmaps, such as from Engineering Biology Research Consortium and the American Society for Microbiology, emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in such carbon management strategies. We emphasize that this list is not comprehensive; we need you to help us think deeper within this subtheme!

As a member of the R&D community, you too are a CASA-Bio stakeholder, and providing your insight on R&D projects that undergird this sub-theme and lead to solutions is critical. Your ideas will matter! Your individual project ideas and those developed as part of the collaborative Town Hall process will be combined to produce an aggregate view. This view will help us understand not only the interests of the R&D community, but also what they are willing to do to advance the bioeconomy. Topics among the R&D project ideas we receive will help government, industry, and non-profit stakeholders see the potential of the US R&D community to address critical future needs and help define topics for future exploration through workshops and roadmapping.

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CASA-Bio is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Contract No. 49100423P0058. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.
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