Bacteria in the Greenhouse

Bacteria and other microbes suck up and blast out vast amounts of greenhouse gases. Over at Yale Environment 360, I take a look at how they will behave in a world warming up as we inject carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Will they draw down some of the extra CO2, or will the heat spur them to spew out more? Or both? The answer isn’t clear yet, but it’s important. After all, it’s a microbial planet, and we just live on it. Check it out.


0 thoughts on “Bacteria in the Greenhouse

  1. Hello Mr Zimmer,

    I’m afraid I’m not directly commenting on this article, though I like its “we’re not actually sure” approach. I’m just a layman who teaches English in Germany to business people who would rather not talk about departmental politics too much so I often try to introduce scientific subjetcs for conversation. I didn’t get too far with hookworms (excpept with a salesman who’d just come back from Lake Victoria) but Craig Ventner’s synthetic molecule got a lot more interest (it got virtually zero publicity in Germany). Someone asked the question as to whether such a synthetic molecule could actually mutate and I wasn’t really sure. So my question, and I can’t think of anyone better to answer it, is – would it mutate just like any other living organism? I’m sure you’re a very busy man but I’d be very grateful for a simple answer.

    Best regards,


    [CZ: Yes!

    The scientists reported that errors were accidentally introduced into the original synthetic genome, so it was mutated from the start. And once the synthetic cell began to replicate, its descendants all had small chances of mutating at any spot in their DNA. It relies on conventional biology to replicate, and conventional biology isn’t perfect. Hence, mutations. With a million or so nucleotides of DNA in each genome, and with billions of cells in their colony, mutations were inevitable.]

  2. Thank you very much. Incidentally, only one of your books has been translated into German, which is a shame. You have a clear, accessible writing style (I speak as a translator) and you could be translated quite easily without much getting lost in translation. E.O.Wilson writes in a not dissimilar way, some of his books are translated and I think they have reasonable sales figures. If your publishers are not thinking about having any of your books translated, maybe they should be. Thanks again for the answer.

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