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Plants Against Global Warming

Scientists have used computer models to show that planting crops with waxier leaves could help to reflect more sunlight and reduce global warming.

Large Cornfield with Trees

Photo: saragoldsmith (flickr)

With selective breeding and maybe genetic engineering, it would be pretty simple to end up with seeds that produce plants with waxier and more reflective leaves.

No matter how much we talk about the need to stop global warming, sometimes it seems impossible.

Luckily, things like hybrid cars can make a difference. Scientists are busy developing biofuels that could reduce our use of gasoline derived from oil. There are also crops and plants that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Plus, crops like corn and wheat have leaves that reflect sunlight back into space. Scientists have used computer models to show that in major croplands in the United States and in Europe, planting crops with waxier leaves helps to reflect more sunlight. In fact, switching to these crops could lower temperatures by about a degree during the summer.

Farmers have yet to switch to these plants. Currently, they exist only as experiments. But with selective breeding and maybe genetic engineering, it would be pretty simple to end up with seeds that produce plants with waxier and more reflective leaves.

Unfortunately, reflective crops can’t help reduce global warming on a large scale. But in places where there’s lots of wheat, corn, and other crops, waxier leaves could make a regional difference.

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