by RAY FLEMING “SIR Richard Branson, whose Virgin planes pump out millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, is offering a $25 million prize to the scientist who can extract that same gas from the atmosphere.” So ran a typical example of press reporting of Richard Branson's challenge to scientists and engineers to make a major contribution to reducing the CO2 emissions that lead to global warming and climate change. Yes, Branson's planes contribute to the problem but, as he said yesterday, that should not disqualify him from trying to contribute to a solution. We are all guilty of creating carbon emissions. Do I have to stop driving my car and do without home heating before I can write on the subject?

Another knee-jerk reaction yesterday was that Sir Richard's idea of sucking carbon gas from the atmosphere may be impractical and that he will never have to stump up with the $25 million. Perhaps so, but think of how many of the amazing things we take for granted today were thought to be impossible before someone proved otherwise.

A more reasoned criticism of the Branson initiative came from Friends of the Earth which warned that the possibility of a “miracle cure” for global warming should not lead us to take our eyes off the many ways of tackling climate change, such as energy efficiency and renewables, that already exist and must be implemented as soon as possible. That's absolutely right, but “blue sky” thinking must also be encouraged.

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