Branson Adds Pickle

AP photo of Branson and GoreCalling all scientists and engineers. You’ll get a $25 million prize from Virgin’s Richard Branson1 if you find a way to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Get to work!

Continuing his admirable campaign to do more useful things with his money instead of engaging in the (let’s face it) mostly silly stunts that used to characterize news stories about him, Richard Branson announced his new prize today in London (in the company of Al Gore) People are indeed working on this sort of thing, in case you’re wondering (see a post I did earlier, for example).

No, this is not a replacement for increasing our efforts to change our habits so as to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we are dumping in the atmosphere. It’s an effort that is in parallel with those other efforts, and given where we are now (with the amount already in the atmosphere, the rate we are adding to it2, and the many huge populations around the world poised to develop further intense emissions activity, it is considerably secondary to the main concern of curtailing emissions. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth research effort.

There’s a BBC story on the press conference here. Al Gore’s comments in the news conference are a pleasure to listen to. Among the things he says:

“It’s a challenge to the moral imagination of humankind to actually accept the reality of the situation we are now facing. […] We’re not used to thinking of a planetary emergency, and there’s nothing in our prior history as a species that equips us to imagine that we, as human beings, could actually be in the process of destroying the habitability of the planet for ourselves.”

I’ve not a lot more to say about this beyond what I’ve already said in many posts (see for example the environment category in the archives, and the other Branson post). I’ll simply express again the hope that Branson is spearheading a new spending fashion in the billionaire club. Hopefully it will spread to lots of areas of scientific research, although I’d be quite happy to see the focus stay on the environment for as long as it takes.

-cvj

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  1. Sorry, I could not resist the pun. I don’t know how many this side of the Atlantic will get it. [return]
  2. Here, I can’t resist drawing your attention to the Onion article I pointed out earlier though, particularly the closing line:

    “Branson also reportedly plans to invest billions more on a time machine that would enable him to prevent the creation of Virgin Airways, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by some four percent worldwide.”

    It’s a bit mean, but I’d imagine he’d have a sense of humour about it. [return]

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