I'm here on behalf of the Antarctic People's Liberation Front. Some call me a terrorist, but really, I'm just trying to build a better life for my people. Earth is a beautiful place, full of bright sunlight and green plants and rushing rivers... that is, for everyone except us. People always forget about the Antarcticans. Why shouldn't we have good lives, too? We've suffered in the cold for too long. All we're asking for is the same opportunities that you have today.

Recently, some of our leading scientists have been looking at ways to warm up the planet, to make it a bit more friendly to our needs. We'd like to clear out some of our ice and start building cities and farms. (Yeah, I know, some places near the equator might become uninhabitable. Surely the people who live there can just move somewhere else, right?) We tried encouraging the rest of the world to keep emitting carbon dioxide and contributing to the greenhouse effect, but despite our best efforts, they simply aren't doing enough. At the current rate, it will take centuries to melt through the ice of the Antarctic peninsula. We need stronger measures.

After some research, we found that a cocktail of fluorinated chemicals such as tetrafluoromethane, hexafluoroethane, and sulfur hexafluoride, which are much stronger greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide, might just do the job. Since we don't have enough industrial capacity to produce them directly, we used AlphaFold to design modified fluorinases that can convert fluoride ions (available in seawater at about a milligram per liter) into the compounds we need. Then, we synthesized some DNA encoding the new proteins. Finally, we added the DNA to a suitable bacterial genome with CRISPR-Cas9. We tested the genetically modified bacteria and, sure enough, they do exactly what we hoped. Nothing can stop us now!

Soon, we'll release our new bacteria into the ocean. Before we do, though, we'd like to have some idea of how the rest of the world will try to stop us. Once our bacteria are in the water, how might an annoying "hero" prevent them from producing enough greenhouse gases to melt Antarctica?


Take a milk cow, bred and selected over the years to continuously produce milk, out of a farm and release it in the wild with other of her kind. What will happen? Very likely the cows will die if there is nobody to milk them out. And even if milking them was not an issue, continuously producing milk would put them at severe disadvantage against the other bovines who endure the energetically expensive task of producing milk only when they have a calf to feed.

As you know nature has pretty smart way of tackling inefficiencies, called natural selection. Organisms selected for an artificial environment will hardly thrive outside of that environment.

Same will apply for your bacteria: producing those substances will have a cost. If there is no benefit for them, they will be outcompeted by other bacteria which are more energy efficient. Unless you have batch reactors to grow your strains in peace, you will defeat yourself.


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