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Woolly mammoths

“What we need to fight climate change is woolly mammoths” — said no climate scientist, ever.

But that’s not deterring a hotshot bioscience start-up from peddling its genetic tinkering as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On its slick website, newly-formed Colossal Laboratories prominently states that its top core goal is “to decelerate melting of the arctic permafrost.” Melting permafrost releases immense quantities of methane into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming.

To achieve their stated goal, the founders plan to genetically engineer a hybrid of the Asian elephant and the extinct woolly mammoth, which last lived about 4,000 years ago. If you don’t immediately see how that relates to the climate crisis, hang on.

The pitch goes like this. First, the gene-splicing wizards will synthesize some carefully chosen woolly mammoth genes — the animal's complete genetic sequence has been known since 2015 — and implant them in an egg cell from an Asian elephant. Egg harvesting is hugely complex with elephants, and the Asian elephant is endangered. (Colossal’s fallback strategy is to make an embryo from stem...

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