– [Joanne Chory] Climate
change is an urgent and immediate threat
that we need to address, and the reason is because you
can see it all around you. We have wildfires in California
like never seen before. The tornadoes that rip
through the southeast. Now the rivers are all
overflowing in the Midwest. I mean, there’s something
happening all the time that is not like the old
climates we all remember from 20, 30 years ago. (air whooshes) (quiet piano plays) – We face two real big problems globally. One is population growth. We’re now at about 7.7 billion people And we’re expected to
rise to about 10 billion in the not too distant future. So feeding 10 billion
people becomes a big issue, particularly when we’re
also faced with this issue that the climate has
been steadily changing. We think that we can use the expertise and the technology that
we’ve been developing here at Salk and in other
laboratories around the world to actually make an impact in drawing down that carbon dioxide, but also feeding this growing population. – One central goal to the plant initiative is to get plants to
capture more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in a really stable molecule called suberin as a way to mitigate the negative
effects of climate change. – So suberin, you could
kind of think of it as the protective plastic
around plant roots and trunks and stems. It’s a very densely-packed form of carbon. – We know it usually as cork, and cork is also formed in the
root system in high amounts. And the great thing about suberin is that it is very
resistant to degradation and that it holds many, many carbon atoms, so suberin is our way to
lock away carbon very stably. – We think that over the
next five to ten years, we can make a significant
impact in selecting plants that not only feed people and can survive in the face of changing
climates and growing seasons, but also can store carbon in the soil and draw down that carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere. Joanne Chory, our leader
of this initiative and the person that runs the
plant biology laboratory here, has really done the most seminal work in how plants adapt to
different environments. – The innovation is
just that we remembered that that’s what plants do. You don’t need to build a big machine. You just need to use plants. The other innovative thing
about our proposal, I think, is that we’re using crop plants, and so crops are on the best land, and they also are grown everywhere, so it becomes a global program right away. And you don’t have to have any
new infrastructure to do it, because farmers are already
planting all those crops. – One aspect related to the
research going on in my lab is to understand how plants
respond to their environment and how that affects
which genes are turned on and which genes are turned off, and understanding those
processes will be important in understanding how the plants can adapt to different growth conditions
and different environments. – My main research interest is
to understand how roots grow and how do they sense the environment, and how do they respond
to the environment. – One thing that makes
me particularly excited about this initiative is
the idea that the science is gonna go outside the
walls of the institute and potentially have a global impact. – This plant initiative fits squarely in the original vision that Jonas had when he founded the Salk Institute, and that is to really
benefit humans globally, and no better way to do this than to think about the one
thing that does grow globally, that feeds us as well as
it alters our climate, and that’s plants. (soft music)