Gallery: Can Scientists Combat Climate Change by Bioengineering the Hum...


Climate talks have stalled, and many countries view geoengineering — like cloud whitening or constructing a space-based sun shade — to be too risky. Could the genetic engineering of the human body to make people smaller and more energy-efficient, for example, be a last-ditch effort to combat climate change? That’s just one of the controversial ideas floated by authors S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg, and Rebecca Roache in a new paper that’s set to be published in the journal Ethics, Policy and the Environment.

In a fascinating interview with The Atlantic, Liao, a professor of philosophy and bioethics at NYU, outlines some of the ideas that are included in the forthcoming paper. In what’s sure to be the paper’s most controversial point, he notes that breeding smaller people would require fewer nutritional inputs and would increase the fuel efficiency of cars. That may be true, but it will never happen. Ever.

Liao et al. also suggest giving people cat eyes so that less energy is wasted on lighting. “We figured that if everyone had cat eyes, you wouldn’t need so much lighting,” he tells The Atlantic. But as nifty as that sounds, Liao acknowledges that as of right now, scientists have no idea how to engineer humans with cat eyes. Further, the paper proposes developing drugs that trigger nausea in people who eat meat, to discourage people from eating protein that requires hefty carbon inputs. That one actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Radical as these ideas are, The Atlantic is careful to note that neither Liao or his co-authors advocate the coercive use of human engineering; “they favor modifications borne of individual choices, not technocratic mandates.” That’s a relief.

Via The Atlantic

Lead photo © Flickr user peasap


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