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Branson's Climate Prize:

Richard Branson is offering a $25 million prize for the development of a technology capable of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Branson's Climate Prize:
  2. Forget Subsidies, Try Prizes:
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Removing it and putting it where, exactly?

Enquiring minds, etc....
2.10.2007 6:41pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
I have to assume that there's some stipulations on cost, total capacity, etc. Because oil companies already pump pressurized Carbon Dioxide into oil wells to push up the oil, and at least some of the Carbon Dioxide stays in the rocks.
2.10.2007 6:46pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
I have this miraculous, 100% natural and organic CO2 scrubbing technology. It's called "trees". If we cover large parts of the earth's surface with these "trees", they will achieve a sustainable balance of CO2 in the atmosphere, guaranteed!

Now where's my check?
2.10.2007 6:52pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Branson's idea seems to violate the notion that only government or the UN can solve the problem. What if it succeeds? A whole industry of hand-wringers will be on the street. What if Bill Gates and Warren Buffet get the same idea? I think Branson deserves a stern letter from a few US Senators, and Gates and Buffet should be quietly warned.
2.10.2007 7:15pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Branson's idea seems to violate the notion that only government or the UN can solve the problem. What if it succeeds? A whole industry of hand-wringers will be on the street. What if Bill Gates and Warren Buffet get the same idea? I think Branson deserves a stern letter from a few US Senators, and Gates and Buffet should be quietly warned.

Who harbors that notion exactly?
2.10.2007 7:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Sorry, Stacy. The prize is for developing the technology. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.
2.10.2007 7:45pm
crane (mail):
Trees? Trees can't be patented. Any fool can plant them. Face it, trees just aren't sexy.

More seriously, I think the idea is to make something that will remove rather more carbon dioxide and take up considerably less space.
2.10.2007 7:49pm
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
Wouldn't all the plants die if we removed the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? Is this Branson guy a Bond villain or something?
2.10.2007 7:54pm
gem (mail):
Growing plants do remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But that is not enough. When the plants die and decompose on the earth's surface, they release carbon dioxide back into environment.

To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide, we need to put carbon permanently back into the ground to make up for all the carbon removed from the ground in the form of oil and coal.

Ironically, in the United States, we actually bury a lot of carbon that used to be in air but was then absorbed by plants. In particular, we put a tremendous amount of organic matter (lawn waste, food leftovers, paper, etc.) into landfills. True, some of this matter decomposes, turns into gases, and escapes back into the atmosphere. But much of it does not. That's why landfills fill up. Probably we could think of ways to bury more carbon waste (stop recycling paper and making compost piles?) and to limit its decomposition better (sealing it in plastic?). But these moves are not as environmentally fashionable as simply reducing the amount of oil and coal used.
2.10.2007 8:25pm
JK:
I'm pretty sure trees can in fact be patented. I haven't read the contest rules, but if you engineered a tree that could recycle CO2 into O2 at an (extremely) accelerated it might count.
2.10.2007 8:28pm
JK:

Growing plants do remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But that is not enough. When the plants die and decompose on the earth's surface, they release carbon dioxide back into environment.

Maybe some CO2 is released when the plant dies, but nothing compared to the amount it uses up in photosynthesis over its lifespan. Time to look back to your 9th grade science book: light + 6H20 + 6CO2 -> C6H12O6 +6O2. Plants certainly do permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
2.10.2007 8:32pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
"I'm pretty sure trees can in fact be patented. I haven't read the contest rules, but if you engineered a tree that could recycle CO2 into O2 at an (extremely) accelerated it might count."

Hey, if someone can do that, more power to 'em. But in the meantime there's no reason the rest of us can't get rich off Volvo-driving bobos by selling them "organic CO2-scrubbing plants" for three times what a nursery charges (aka six times what Home Deport or Lowes want) That's some wealth transfer I can get behind ;)
2.10.2007 8:42pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Sorry, Stacy. The prize is for developing the technology. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.

I still remember my freshman English professor telling us that at least one good thing came out of World War I.

SGT Alfred Joyce Kilmer, who is best known for his poem "TREES", was killed by a sniper in France during World War One at the age of 31.
2.10.2007 8:45pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The technology exists, it just costs a bomb/ton CO2. See the IPCC report on carbon sequesterization.
2.10.2007 9:09pm
davod (mail):
Every action has an equal and opposire reaction. Something tells me that removing CO2 will have a bad reaction that, either no one has discovered or, those who have discovered the reaction do not want to rock the boat.
2.10.2007 9:11pm
gem (mail):

"Maybe some CO2 is released when the plant dies, but nothing compared to the amount it uses up in photosynthesis over its lifespan."

You are correct that plants absorb carbon. There's no doubt about that. But when they die and decompose, they release it again. It is part of the famous carbon cycle (probably the next chapter in the 9th grade science book). According to the CMU website below:

"Photosynthesis by plants removes about 120 billion tons of carbon from the air per year, but plant decomposition returns about the same amount."
http://telstar.ote.cmu.edu/environ/m3/s4/cycleCarbon.shtml

So unless we can reduce decomposition, we don't change the amount of carbon dioxide much in the long run just by growing plants.
2.10.2007 9:14pm
Pendulum (mail):
Should I buy the industrial strength heater that I'm looking at on ebay in preparation for global cooling, or should I wait?
2.10.2007 9:46pm
Constantin:
Branson's idea seems to violate the notion that only government or the UN can solve the problem.

Who harbors that notion exactly?In a larger context, everyone who wants to raise your taxes.
2.10.2007 9:49pm
Splunge (mail):
Considering they are the result of 4 billion years of cut-throat competitive evolution I think no one will ever find a technology more efficient and effective for removing CO2 from the atmosphere than photosynthesizing plants and/or foraminefera. Bear in mind these solar-powered, pollution-free widgets are responsible for reducing the CO2 content of the Earth's atmosphere from its primordial 70-90% to its present nearly nonexistent 0.04%.

It's true (as noted above) that green plants on land don't sequester carbon dioxide, because what they absorb from the atmosphere as they grow is returned as they decompose. But the largest amount of biomass on the planet is not on land, but in the deep oceans. Here a fair amount of CO2 gets sequestered as sediment, since the dead organisms sink and at depth there is too little oxygen for the required oxidative decay to convert the carbon compounds in the plant back to CO2. Over time the sediment turns into carbonate rocks (e.g. limestone), and that is where almost all of the Earth's primordial CO2 now lies.

Hence if you really want to remove CO2 from the air in gigantic amounts, you need only boost the biomass of phytoplankton and foraminefera in the oceans. (Some have argued that seeding with iron, a critical nutrient far from land, would do the trick, but I believe recent experiments have cast some doubt on this.)

You'd want to do this quite carefully, however. An atmosphere with too little CO2 would probably be worse than one with too much. A hotter Earth we (and plants) can deal with; a glaciated Earth starved of enough CO2 to support flowering plants on land would be much worse.

In short, I think Branson would have done more good offering his prize for something plausible, more modest, and safer, like the development of more efficient automobiles and airplanes.
2.10.2007 10:40pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Kovarsky: Who harbors that notion exactly?

Roger Helms and Allen Paddington.
2.10.2007 10:41pm
byomtov (mail):
Considering they are the result of 4 billion years of cut-throat competitive evolution I think no one will ever find a technology more efficient and effective for removing CO2 from the atmosphere than photosynthesizing plants and/or foraminefera.

Yes. I suppose we will never develop a technology that lets us fly faster than birds, who are the result of so very many years of evolution.
2.10.2007 11:04pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Get rid of Al Gore and Branson's private jets. Where do I collect the money?
2.10.2007 11:09pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
The answer to getting rid of the plants then w/o releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere is to bury it deep enough that it won't come out w/i the near future. A couple of million years would be fine.

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about the time frame for when coal, oil, and oil shale were laid down, and the nearest was, I believe, the coal out west here, maybe about 40 million years ago. A lot of the oil is, I believe, about 80 million years old, and the coal in WV and PA maybe 200 million years ago. Even burying it for a million years would be ok with me. Ok, even 100,000 years. After all, where were we, as a species, back 100,000 years ago? And hopefully, w/i the next 100,000 years, we should be able to figure out what to do with the stuff.
2.10.2007 11:42pm
Zeb Quinn (mail):
"Every action has an equal and opposire reaction. Something tells me that removing CO2 will have a bad reaction that, either no one has discovered or, those who have discovered the reaction do not want to rock the boat."

The law of unintended consequences.

Besides, do we even know for a lead pipe cinch that CO2 is a bad culprit in global warming?
2.10.2007 11:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
In Branson's favor, he has a much better idea here than Kyoto. First, it is using private money. Secondly, it is purely voluntary. And third, it might actually work and do some good.

I really like this idea of awarding prizes. Last year, we watched SpaceShip One win the X-Prize for being able to go into space twice w/i 10 days or so. And there are prizes now out for completely autonymous vehicles. Part of the allure is the money, but probably more, the bragging rights and notoriety of winning.
2.10.2007 11:47pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Besides, do we even know for a lead pipe cinch that CO2 is a bad culprit in global warming?
It must - Al Gore has assured us that that is the case. And he should know - remember, he invented the Internet.
2.10.2007 11:48pm
Tex:
So...you all seem pretty negative about this. That strikes me as silly. What exactly is wrong with Branson's idea here?
2.11.2007 12:14am
JB:
Bruce Hayden is right. The winner will have venture capital thrown at him far in excess of the prize's value. The real prize is getting a signalling device to the venture capital people that your tech really works.
2.11.2007 12:45am
Anon Y. Mous:

Richard Branson is offering a $25 million prize for the development of a technology capable of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Better check the fine print before you make plans for that $25 million. According to Reuters, you only get $5 million for developing the technology; the other $20 million is payable after the technology has actually been implemented and has removed one billion metric tons of carbon gases per year from the atmosphere for 10 years.
2.11.2007 1:58am
Splunge (mail):
Yes. I suppose we will never develop a technology that lets us fly faster than birds, who are the result of so very many years of evolution.

Good grief, don't be obtuse. "Faster" is not the only possible figure of merit. Birds, for example, are enormously more efficient and far less polluting than any mechanical flying device.
2.11.2007 3:20am
Frederic (mail) (www):
I presume those 25 millions $ are mere pennies compared to what he hope to win from his Virgin Galatic company which will release megatons of CO2.
And I assume that after removing CO2, he'll offer another prize for finding how to feed plants with hot air.
2.11.2007 5:39am
byomtov (mail):
Good grief, don't be obtuse. "Faster" is not the only possible figure of merit.

I'm not being obtuse. Your original post suggested that it was ridiculous to think that technological devices could be designed to outperform biological entities. I provided one of countless examples of such devices.
2.11.2007 10:39am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Birds, for example, are enormously more efficient and far less polluting than any mechanical flying device.

Obviously you have never encountered a flock of Canada geese.
2.11.2007 10:51am
DiverDan (mail):
For those who wonder where the Carbon Dioxide will go, I recommend a quick perusal of the Wikipedia article on the Carbon Cycle, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_Cycle -- also, for those focusing on trees, you are ignoring the fact that the carbon locked up in the oceans is 18 times larger than that in biomass, and that oceanic biomass is more than 25 times terrestrial biomass. Yes, planting additional trees (or any fast growing plants) will increase the takeup of Carbon Dioxide, but not nearly as efficiently as increasing the growth of large masses of phytoplankton or green algae, or increasing CO2 solution in cold polar waters (which will then carry the CO2 to the deep oceans where it can be locked in sediments for hundreds of thousands of years). There have been some experiments done on increasing the amount of certain nutrients on the growth of phytoplankton; for example, when it appeared that the low level of dissolved iron was a limiting factor in the growth of phytoplankton in the south Atlantic, one experiment involved seeding large areas of the ocean surface with powdered iron oxide (i.e., rust particles, freely available at any local junkyard), which resulted in a tremendous increase in the growth of phytoplankton, and the resulting increase in the takeup of Carbon Dioxide. The one point which Branson raises very effectively, which is hardly ever addressed by politicians or environmental groups, is that there are two sides to the increase in atmospheric CO2 - the "supply side", i.e., putting more CO2 into the atmosphere through human activity like burning fossil fuels, and the demand side, taking CO2 out through photosynthesis and other means. The Global Warming debate has been focused almost entirely on the supply side - reducing CO2 emissions, which almost invariably requires economic sacrifice, such as reducing energy production, or investing capital in less efficient production technology (wind farms, tidal hydroelectric, solar energy, all green, but all less economically efficient than burning fossil fuels). Branson has at the least gotten some focused on the 'til now overlooked demand side. We would not have to reduce CO2 emissions as much (or at all) if we could sufficiently accelerate certain processes that take CO2 out of the atmosphere. Imagine how quickly greenhouse gases would cease to be a problem if we could, by seeding large areas of the ocean with the appropriate limiting nutrients, like iron, phosphates, or whatever else was required, increase the total growth of oceanic phytoplankton and blue-green algaes by as little as 5%.
2.11.2007 11:29am
markm (mail):
Better check the fine print before you make plans for that $25 million.

Yes, but neither that Reuters story nor Johnathon's original link contains the fine print - and there's got to be quite a lot of it, or else all the prize will engender will be a race to create trivial variations on existing carbon sequestration methods. This isn't like the prizes won by Spaceship One or Lindbergh, where the requirements could be simply and clearly stated because they were for something that no one was doing already. A press conference is not at all the place for putting across such complexity, especially not when there's a politician present - and Branson might be as bad a windbag as Gore.
2.11.2007 11:43am
karl (mail):
Plants not only emit CO2 when dying, they also emit CO2 while alive, at night, during the repiration phase. Actually, more CO2 is released into the atmosphere by the biota than is photosynthetically reduced. Branson's idea is more Don Quiotic than realistic.
2.11.2007 12:56pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Karl, Branson didn't say anything about "plants," so I fail to see how your last sentence follows from your others.


Good grief, don't be obtuse. "Faster" is not the only possible figure of merit. Birds, for example, are enormously more efficient and far less polluting than any mechanical flying device.
They're more efficient? Really? How many birds would it take to get 300 people from New York to Los Angeles? How much energy would they use, and how much pollution would they emit?
2.11.2007 2:23pm
Randy R. (mail):
BTW, Exxon Mobile issued a statement recently that they never disputed the fact of global warming.

Not sure if that's really true, but at least even they have come to recognize reality. But I'm sure the doubters will claim that they are a bunch of wild-eyed yahoos who know nothing at all about climate change.
2.11.2007 2:45pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Randy,

There are two issues in play here, and they are often confused for one another. One is the idea the temperature is increasing. The other is the idea it would not be happening except for the activities of humans.

It's quite possible to believe the temperature is increasing, yet see no reason to attribute it to men.

A third idea is the notion that humans can change the course of the temperature change.
2.11.2007 3:01pm
Enoch:
If Branson wants to solve global warming, he should offer a $25 million prize to destroy the sun, or the next best thing, to block it out.

Cosmic rays blamed for global warming

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:08am GMT 11/02/2007

Man-made climate change may be happening at a far slower rate than has been claimed, according to controversial new research.

Scientists say that cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth's climate than global warming experts previously thought.

In a book, to be published this week, they claim that fluctuations in the number of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere directly alter the amount of cloud covering the planet.

How cosmic rays could seed clouds diagram

High levels of cloud cover blankets the Earth and reflects radiated heat from the Sun back out into space, causing the planet to cool.

Henrik Svensmark, a weather scientist at the Danish National Space Centre who led the team behind the research, believes that the planet is experiencing a natural period of low cloud cover due to fewer cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.

This, he says, is responsible for much of the global warming we are experiencing.

He claims carbon dioxide emissions due to human activity are having a smaller impact on climate change than scientists think. If he is correct, it could mean that mankind has more time to reduce our effect on the climate.

The controversial theory comes one week after 2,500 scientists who make up the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change published their fourth report stating that human carbon dioxide emissions would cause temperature rises of up to 4.5 C by the end of the century.

Mr Svensmark claims that the calculations used to make this prediction largely overlooked the effect of cosmic rays on cloud cover and the temperature rise due to human activity may be much smaller.

He said: "It was long thought that clouds were caused by climate change, but now we see that climate change is driven by clouds.

"This has not been taken into account in the models used to work out the effect carbon dioxide has had.
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"We may see CO2 is responsible for much less warming than we thought and if this is the case the predictions of warming due to human activity will need to be adjusted."

Mr Svensmark last week published the first experimental evidence from five years' research on the influence that cosmic rays have on cloud production in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Journal A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. This week he will also publish a fuller account of his work in a book entitled The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change.

A team of more than 60 scientists from around the world are preparing to conduct a large-scale experiment using a particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, to replicate the effect of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere.

They hope this will prove whether this deep space radiation is responsible for changing cloud cover. If so, it could force climate scientists to re-evaluate their ideas about how global warming occurs.

Mr Svensmark's results show that the rays produce electrically charged particles when they hit the atmosphere. He said: "These particles attract water molecules from the air and cause them to clump together until they condense into clouds."

Mr Svensmark claims that the number of cosmic rays hitting the Earth changes with the magnetic activity around the Sun. During high periods of activity, fewer cosmic rays hit the Earth and so there are less clouds formed, resulting in warming.

Low activity causes more clouds and cools the Earth.

He said: "Evidence from ice cores show this happening long into the past. We have the highest solar activity we have had in at least 1,000 years.

"Humans are having an effect on climate change, but by not including the cosmic ray effect in models it means the results are inaccurate.The size of man's impact may be much smaller and so the man-made change is happening slower than predicted."

Some climate change experts have dismissed the claims as "tenuous".

Giles Harrison, a cloud specialist at Reading University said that he had carried out research on cosmic rays and their effect on clouds, but believed the impact on climate is much smaller than Mr Svensmark claims.

Mr Harrison said: "I have been looking at cloud data going back 50 years over the UK and found there was a small relationship with cosmic rays. It looks like it creates some additional variability in a natural climate system but this is small."

But there is a growing number of scientists who believe that the effect may be genuine.

Among them is Prof Bob Bingham, a clouds expert from the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils in Rutherford.

He said: "It is a relatively new idea, but there is some evidence there for this effect on clouds."
2.11.2007 3:34pm
karl (mail):
Branson could turn the captured CO2 into dry ice and cool the planet.
2.11.2007 5:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
Eliott: One is the idea the temperature is increasing.

But of course. Nonetheless, there have been a great many people on this blog who have denied that there is any global climate change going on at all. Now with Exxon/Mobile admitting that it is happening, the people who deny any climate change have less and less to support their contentions.
2.11.2007 6:01pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
davod wrote:
Every action has an equal and opposire reaction. Something tells me that removing CO2 will have a bad reaction that, either no one has discovered or, those who have discovered the reaction do not want to rock the boat.
Merely removing the excess CO2 that humans have put into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution shouldn't have any significant repercussions, since nature has not had time to adapt to the resulting environmental changes. Going further and reducing CO2 below its prior level would be another matter.

It is possible that the way we store the excess CO2 will backfire on us, but that's not what davod seems to be worried about. The issue isn't whether to reduce atmospheric CO2 but rather how.


Splunge wrote:
Considering they are the result of 4 billion years of cut-throat competitive evolution I think no one will ever find a technology more efficient and effective for removing CO2 from the atmosphere than photosynthesizing plants and/or foraminefera.
The problem with this logic is that the trees which won this cut-throat competition did so based upon their ability to survive and reproduce, not their ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. After all, evolution selected us too even though we add CO2 to the atmosphere every time we breathe. The capacity to regulate the atmosphere is a factor in evolution but only a subtle one; factors like the ability to survive wind, fire, snow and termites matter a lot more.

Trees do many other things which wouldn't play major roles in natural selection, like providing shade and sheltering birds, but it wouldn't make sense to conclude that people couldn't do these things more efficiently. It might (or might not) be reasonable to conclude that we could never manufacture trees more efficiently than the trees propogate themselves, but that's about as far as the evolutionary argument can take you.


karl wrote:
Plants not only emit CO2 when dying, they also emit CO2 while alive, at night, during the repiration phase. Actually, more CO2 is released into the atmosphere by the biota than is photosynthetically reduced. Branson's idea is more Don Quiotic than realistic.
Trees absorb far more CO2 during the day than they emit at night. That's where much of the carbon in their wood comes from.

Plants aren't the only carbon sinks in nature. Various types of rock absorb CO2, as do sediments on the ocean floor. Even if living creatures emit more CO2 than they consume, these emissions have long been in balance with the absorption by the various natural sinks. The problem is that none of these absorption processes can keep up with the vast increase in carbon emissions humans have caused.

If the biota released significantly more CO2 than plants and other natural processes could absorb then the level of atmospheric CO2 would have risen constantly for billions of years. That didn't happen. The level has fluctuated somewhat over time, but these changes were extremely gradual. The recent rapid increase in CO2 levels is unprecedented, and the only plausible explanation is that it was caused by human activity.
2.11.2007 6:50pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Randy,

I doubt we could find anyone at Exxon who denied the temperature readings presented in the scientific data. So, one has to ask 1) what temperature, 2) where, and 3) over what time span?

We probably would find the people at Exxon also accept the readings from the US satellites showing atmospheric temperature remaining steady for the last eight years. We might ask who else accepts this data. Al Gore? Michael Moore? Ellen Goodman? Greenpeace?
2.11.2007 8:29pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

The recent rapid increase in CO2 levels is unprecedented, and the only plausible explanation is that it was caused by human activity.


So is the recent increase in Xbox 360s but im not losing sleep over it.
2.12.2007 12:45am
David M. Nieporent (www):
If Branson wants to solve global warming, he should offer a $25 million prize to destroy the sun, or the next best thing, to block it out.
Okay, now you've crossed that line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy.
2.12.2007 3:12am
C. Fulmer:
I am no climatologist, but, at most, don't we really only want to sequester the carbon part of carbon dioxide? If I recall my basic chemistry, fossil fuels are basically just carbon chains without a lot of oxygen in them. When they're burned, the carbon combines with oxygen in the atmosphere and creates carbon dioxide. The end result is that the use of fossil fuels has converted atmospheric oxygen into atmospheric carbon dioxide. It seems to me that pulling the C02 out of the air and sequestering it somewhere would have the same effect as sequestering the original 02.

The counter-argument, I think, is that there is a lot of oxygen out there (21% of the atmosphere) we wouldn't be pulling that much out. However, if that's true, there can't be that much C02 in the air, either.
2.12.2007 9:27am
David Schwartz (mail):

The recent rapid increase in CO2 levels is unprecedented, and the only plausible explanation is that it was caused by human activity.


You have it backwards. The recent rapid increase of CO2 levels cannot be explained as caused by human activity. At present, there is simply no way to explain it. It is possible that it is caused by human activity, but if that is the explanation, some as yet unknown feedback phenomenon is multiplying the CO2 we are emitting.
2.12.2007 10:33am
Dan Hamilton:
Global Warming is EASY to Fix. The Technology has been around for years.

Set off Nucs in out of the way places. Putting junk into the upper air. No problem. we don't want Nuc Winter just a little Fall.

Simple, easy, cost effective. Gives us something to do with our old Bombs. It's a win win.

Try it you will like it. Cooler living through A-Bombs.
2.12.2007 11:36am
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
David Schwartz wrote:
You have it backwards. The recent rapid increase of CO2 levels cannot be explained as caused by human activity. At present, there is simply no way to explain it. It is possible that it is caused by human activity, but if that is the explanation, some as yet unknown feedback phenomenon is multiplying the CO2 we are emitting.
I don't suppose you'd care to cite some scientific authority for this claim....
2.12.2007 3:32pm
PubliusFL:
Maybe some ice-nine would help.
2.12.2007 3:39pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
C. Fulmer wrote:
The counter-argument, I think, is that there is a lot of oxygen out there (21% of the atmosphere) we wouldn't be pulling that much out. However, if that's true, there can't be that much C02 in the air, either.
The problem with this analysis is that it presumes there is some relationship between the percentage of oxygen needed to support animal life and the amount of C02 needed to keep global temperatures where they used to be. The two are actually unrelated, so using the term "that much" to refer to both is misleading. It's like saying that a five-mile highway isn't "that long", so a five-mile driveway mustn't be either.

CO2 makes up less than one-tenth of one percent of the atmosphere, but even this small amount is enough to create the greenhouse effect that has kept the earth warm for eons. The concentration of CO2 it would take to cause a catastrophic temperature increase would still be small compared to that of oxygen and might seem like "not much" numerically, but that's beside the point.
2.12.2007 4:45pm
jumper (mail) (www):
Sir Fred Hoyle's method to prevent ice ages also removes CO2 from the atmosphere. He suggests pumping deep cold ocean water to surface. Colder water dissolves more CO2 so over the decades more atmospheric CO2 ends up in ocean. Colder water also retains more solar heat. Sir Fred hopes that if oceans store enough heat ice ages are prevented. Is Sir Fred still alive? Then send him the money.
2.12.2007 8:21pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
I think the objective of the prize is so Branson can (1) continue his Virgin Air jet CO2 contributions, while (2) managing to get the patent on Virgin Air CO2 dialysis machines to remove all the Virgin jet CO2 exhaust from the air.

The problem will come when all those CO2 burbing machines get infected with toxic fungus and mold and spread it to all parts of the Earth and we all get sick.

I vote to go with more trees and abolish the judiciaries over usage of paper.
2.12.2007 10:53pm