How microbes can combat climate change

Prof. Michael Rother from TUD Dresden University of Technology is an expert in the biology of methane-producing microorganisms. In the spring of this year, he was invited by the American Academy of Microbiology to meet with other experts for a colloquium with the aim of drawing up a guideline to quickly reduce methane emissions in the fight against climate change and global warming. The report has now been published and is intended to serve as reference for decision makers, for example the US Congress.

Nov 17, 2023, 4:23:29 PM
Nicole Gierig, Technische Universität Dresden

Global climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Experts around the world are looking for solutions and strategies to stop its unimpeded progression. A recently published report by the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Geophysical Union now points to exploiting tiny organisms, microbes, in the fight against global warming. Microbes are important producers, but also consumers, of greenhouse gases, which are considered to be among the main causes of climate change. A better understanding of microbes and the microbial processes that add or remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere can help to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. The main focus here was on the greenhouse gas methane (CH4). Compared to carbon dioxide (CO2), anthropogenic methane emissions are significantly lower, but CH4 has a climate impact 80 times greater than CO2. In other words, methane can trap 80 times more heat in the atmosphere over a period of 20 years, which contributes significantly to global warming. Methane is produced wherever organic material is degraded in the absence of oxygen, for example in rice fields, landfills, as well as in forestry and agriculture, especially in factory farming. Michael Rother is Professor of Microbial Diversity at the TUD. As an expert on methane-producing microorganisms, he was the only representative from Germany to be invited by the American Academy of Microbiology to a colloquium with representatives from numerous renowned US universities and institutions in order to jointly propose concrete measures to reduce methane emissions. The resulting recommendations for action have now been published in a detailed report and will serve as a basis for policy-makers such as the US Congress. The recommendations presented include expanding the basic knowledge of microbes that reduce methane, e.g. by expanding academic training in (anaerobic) microbiology, or by prioritizing research to characterize rumen microbiomes that could reduce methane emissions from ruminants. In addition, the findings should flow directly into methane-reducing, climate-friendly agricultural practices and there should be increased cooperation across the boundaries of science, industry, municipalities and the private sector. Prof. Rother argues for immediate actions far beyond the recommendations made: " The climate crisis is in full effect. The global rise in temperature is not only detrimental to human health and food production. It is very important for humanity to take effective action quickly." Media inquiries: Prof. Michael Rother Faculty of Biology Tel.: +49 351 463-42611 Email:

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