Virgin founder Branson offers $25 million atmosphere-scrubbing prize

Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson is dangling $25 million for anyone who can figure out how to scrub vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The Virgin Earth Challenge — which Branson announced today with the ubiquitous Al Gore by his side and which we’re pretty sure was also a Star Trek episode — will be judged by a panel that includes, besides Branson and Gore, NASA scientist James Hansen, Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Aussie scientist Tim Flannery, and U.K. eco-hero Sir Crispin Tickell. “The Earth cannot wait 60 years,” Branson said. “If I write this check … it will be the best check I’ve ever written.” Despite grumbling from some who pointed out that Branson’s endeavors, including plans for commercial space travel, don’t exactly help the climate cause, others offered praise. “Richard Branson is ahead of the pack in getting to grips with CO2,” said University of Edinburgh geology professor Stuart Haszeldine. “I hope all other businesses, large and small, follow his lead.”