Climate change is an imminent global threat. To address this momentous challenge, the American Academy of Microbiology created a 5-year scientific portfolio to increase the scientific understanding about climate change and microbes, inform climate change policies and drive market innovations.
Tiny Organisms With Major Impacts
Climate change impacts all life, including the smallest microorganisms. It influences microbial adaptation, disrupts microbial balances, reduces biodiversity and increases risks to human health.
Microbes are responsible for most elemental flows on the planet, including carbon and nitrogen. On the other hand, microbes are also contributors to the methane emissions from waste management and agriculture. The important roles of microbes as both friends and foes of our environment provide tremendous opportunities for microbiologists to contribute their expertise and knowledge in addressing climate change.
In 2021, Academy fellows announced a 5-year plan to build a Scientific Portfolio exclusively on the topic of climate change and microbes. This Scientific Portfolio prioritizes scientific understanding in 3 major areas:
- Health, microbes and the environment.
- Microbial diversity: cascading effects of climate change.
- Microbial controls on greenhouse gases.
These efforts would not be possible without the support and expertise of the scientific advisory taskforce on climate change, which was subsequently formed to help guide the Academy's climate change efforts.
Our Vision and Approach
We envision a future in which microbes will be part of all climate change conversations and microbiologists will be on the front lines to search for effective climate solutions, as we did to fight COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
To achieve this vision, the Scientific Portfolio takes on a series of activities to broaden the scientific understanding about climate change and microbes. The Scientific Portfolio aims to actively engage with diverse scientific and non-scientific communities to better understand the relationship between climate change and microbes in the context of human well-being—including health, society and the economy. In short, we will bring together key partners to accelerate the translation of science into practical solutions for society.
- Microbes in Models: Integrating Microbes into Earth System Models for Understanding Climate Change report.
- Climate Change & Microbes guest track at ASM Microbe 2023.
- The Role of Microbes in Mediating Methane Emissions colloquium in partnership with the American Geophysical Union. (Report in progress and expected to publish by the end of the year 2023).
- Microbes and Climate Change - Science, People & Impacts report.
Microbes in Models: Integrating Microbes into Earth System Models for Understanding Climate Change
This report outlines challenges for better incorporating microbial processes into Earth system models and improving model projections that inform climate change mitigation actions.Read the Report
Scientific Focuses of the Portfolio
- Take a One Health approach to reduce exposure to harmful microbes and maintain ecosystems that limit exposure to zoonotic diseases.
- Study the science and technology behind the use of microbes as greener solutions, such as biofuels and bioenergy, and address the scientific barriers to help accelerate the transfer of the technology in market solutions.
- Understand the role of microbial communities in environmentally sustainable agricultural systems and soil health.
- Highlight microbes' role in carbon flows and their use in bioprocesses to reduce CO2 emissions.
- Identify data infrastructural resources and gaps in data collection and curation and support collaborations in data sharing to improve understanding, prediction and management.
Microbial research can inform climate change solutions.
Source: American Society for Microbiology