Five Environmental Science Stories to Watch in 2020

Here are some of the top foreseeable events affecting the environment unfolding in the new year, according to Nature. New year, new science!

Futuristic Renewable Tech

Remember carbon-neutral steel? There are even more high-tech advancements in renewable energy on the horizon in 2020. Solar companies are now starting to roll out a new generation of solar panels made with perovskite films instead of only using conventional silicon crystals. The boost in value and performance could do even more to change the cost-to-watt calculus of solar.

Synthetic Yeast

The landmark project of creating genetically-engineered yeast (a.k.a. "Synthetic Yeast 2.0") is on course to be completed in the new year. The futuristic yeast is built out of hand-crafted DNA strands by researchers collaborating across the globe, and is anticipated to unlock a new world of medicines, products, and biofuels. Let's hope it... rises to the occasion.

Friendlier Mosquitos

Just as we are beginning to understand the ecological importance of our least favorite blood-sucking companions, scientists in Indonesia are conducting wide-spread experiments on how to limit the spread of mosquito-borne viruses. By releasing mosquitoes artificially infused with virus-inhibiting Wolbachia bacteria, they hope the infection will spread to the wild population and reduce the rates of dengue fever in humans. Those suckers will still bite though.

Human-Animal Hybrids (finally)

No, Elon Musk hasn't scientifically engineered cat girls (yet). But George W. Bush's worse nightmares might soon be coming true: after Japan passed a new law allowing transplanting human embryos into surrogate animals, scientists at the University of Tokyo are planning experiments with growing human organs inside mice and pigs.

Geoengineering and Climate Policy

With President Trump at its helm, the U.S. is poised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement the day after the 2020 election. That is, of course, if he and his conservative party are reelected. Either way will have profound consequences for the global effort to combat climate change, with the COP26 climate conference later in November. Also next year, the U.N. is due to release a major report on the science, technology, and feasibility of geoengineering our way out of the climate crisis: from atmospheric carbon capture to blocking out sunlight.

Although no one knows what the future holds, 2020 is poised to be a pivotal year for the fate of the planet.

Read more on Nature.