Microbes and Climate Change
Microbes and Climate Change
Source: American Academy of Microbiology

As the most abundant organisms on Earth, microorganisms make considerable contributions to, and are greatly affected by, a changing climate. Microbes are major drivers of elemental cycles (such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus), important producers and consumers of greenhouse gases, and pertinent pathogens of humans, animals and plants. It is critical to learn how the impacts of a changing climate will impact microbes and their relationships with humans and the environment. On April 22, 2022, the American Academy of Microbiology (Academy), the honorific leadership group of ASM, published a report based on the deliberations of experts who participated in a colloquium on November 2021. The Academy's Climate Change and Microbes Scientific Portfolio is a committment to continue focusing on understanding the relationship between microbes and climate change over the next 5 years. 

Advocating for Climate Change Solutions


ASM advocates for continued support for research and policies that facilitate the translation of microbial research to real-world, scalable solutions in renewable energy, water quality and sustainable ecosystems. These efforts will require Congressional support and interagency coordination on an unusually grand scale.

Microbes and Society
Source: Robinson et al. 2022

As ASM works with policymakers to ensure that science is front and center in policy approaches to climate change, we strongly encourage scientists to bring their expertise to bear on climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience.  

ASM Policy Recommendations

Few policymakers understand the contributions of microbes to the generation and consumption of warming gases, to ecosystem stability, and to human well-being. To that end, ASM has developed a policy brief with recommendations urging adequate infrastructure, funding and coordination to support microbiologists who are developing and deploying climate solutions.
View Policy Paper

ASM Policy Statements

  • Big Problems, Tiny Solutions: ASM experts led a Congressional briefing on the impact of climate change and how microbiology research can curb dangerous effects of viral pathogens, harness the power of microbes for a sustainable global food supply, support renewable energy development and preserve biodiversity in our environment.
  • ASM Advocates for Scientific Solutions to Climate Change: ASM joined 48 fellow scientific societies in a letter urging Congress to act immediately on climate change with research and innovation.

Hear From Experts

Panel Discussion


Microbes are adept at adapting, surviving and thriving in extreme and constantly changing environments. ASM leadership hosted a virtual panel during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Science Summit discussing the role and contribution of science to the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs include 17 interconnecting global objectives identified by the UN as a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all" by 2030.

Academy Fellows Identify Climate Change as Top Priority

Why would leading microbiologists, commonly associated with studying the smallest organisms on Earth, tackle a global problem like climate change? Academy Fellows weigh in. 

Read Their Perspective


Mallory Choudoir, microbial ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst shares how she leverages microbial culture collections to infer ecological and evolutionary responses to warming soil temperature.

Sanghoon Kang, an assistant professor of biology at Baylor University, talks about the impacts of climate change on infectious diseases. 

Wayne Curtis discusses engineering microbes for products like biofuel using the metabolically flexible bacterium Rhodobacter and other microorganisms. 

Christine Foreman explains how microbes can survive and grow on glaciers, and what we can learn from microbes in glacier ice cores.

Climate Change