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Future threats to health and environment

Future Threats to the Global Environment-NanoMaterials, Manmade Viruses & Biomimetic Robots

February 26, 2009

Forget about rising global water levels: Researchers, policymakers and environmental campaigners have identified 25 potential future threats to the environment including nanomaterials, manmade viruses and biomimetic robots. In addition to well-publicized risks such as toxic nanomaterials, the acidification of the ocean and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, the list includes some spooky scifi sounding possibilities:

• Biomimetic robots that could become new invasive species.

• Experiments involving climate engineering, for instance ocean 'fertilization' and deploying solar shields

• Increased demand for the biomass needed to make biofuel.

• Disruption to marine ecosystems caused by offshore power generation.

• Experiments to control invasive species using genetically engineered viruses.

William Sutherland, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge, led a series of horizon-scanning workshops where the threats where highlighted.

Some of the threats identified are more speculative, such as robots that imitate animal behavior and microbes made from synthetic molecules and might eventually behave like invasive species.

Posted by Jason McManus.

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