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The Almighty Buck Businesses Science

$25M Bounty Offered for Global Warming Fix 766

SaDan writes "Richard Branson is offering $25M as a bounty for a fix to global warming. The person or organization that can devise a method to remove at least a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere will be able to claim the bounty. There are a few catches, of course. There can't be any negative impact on the environment, and the payment will come in chunks. A 5 million dollar payout will be paid when the system is put into place with the remainder of the bounty to be paid after 10 years of continuous use."
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$25M Bounty Offered for Global Warming Fix

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  • by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @05:55PM (#17954948) Homepage Journal
    And since water is most dense at 4deg C, the sea level will rise!

    Grump, Environmental Scientist.
    Yes, I really have a real degree in this field.
  • Re:Plant Respiration (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:05PM (#17955160)
    One Acre of Pine can sequester One Metric Ton of Carbon per year for 90 years.
    So, you just need to plan 1.5 million square miles of Pine Trees.
    (numbers from [] and google calculator)

    That's more than the land mass of India. Good luck!

  • by QuickFox ( 311231 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:13PM (#17955354)

    global warming fear mongers
    Don't despise the Americans who believe in the propaganda from their government and media, like the parent. They are in the same situation as they were in the months before the Iraq war. Before the Iraq war the whole world knew about and debated the inevitable catastrophic chaos in Iraq, the skyrocketing terrorist recruitment, the extreme difficulties in preventing civil war when pulling out, the lack of exit strategy, and so on. This was considered obvious practically everywhere in the world. The only major exception was the Americans, who were grossly duped by their government and their media, which were constantly lying to their people.

    Remember that the Americans still remain subjected to the same skillfully honed propaganda machinery.

    One could argue that in the modern age of the Internet there is no excuse for being so gullible. Especially in the case of the Americans -- they have many of the world's papers and editorials available a mouseclick away in their own language!

    Unfortunately, the Americans prefer TV. And seeing through propaganda isn't easy when it surrounds you all the time. So don't despise them.

    One difference compared to the Iraq war is that with global warming the catastrophe will be on a far larger scale. This means that the embarrassment will be far, far greater than the embarrassment over Iraq.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:18PM (#17955500)
    The problem with nuclear is that when you view it in totality - the cost of building the power plant, mining and processing uranium, maintaining and decommissioning the plant, storing and/or disposing of waste - it is nowhere close to an affordable source of power. Without substantial government subsidies (either direct or hidden), the nuclear power industry would be much smaller than it is today. Building hundreds of new reactors is not a minor undertaking ... a $25m prize is a joke in comparison.
  • by Firedog ( 230345 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:27PM (#17955694)
    Here's a couple (the second covers from 400,000 years ago to today) [] []

    Your Google must be broken...
  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:33PM (#17955816)
    Easy enough to find. Here [] is one graph that goes to 2004. To 2006 should be possible to find with some searching.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:39PM (#17955914) Journal
    Since he is English maybe he means a billion [] (10^12) tons? Then it would be 32,000 tons a second.

  • by Derek Pomery ( 2028 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @06:48PM (#17956068)
    Biodiesel is most definitely not taking a billion tons out of the cycle since you're just burning it again.

    Trees will do this, but you'd need a hell of a lot of trees, since you have to compensate for the amount that gets released back when they die, lose leaves, get cut down and burnt, etc. Forests_2 []
    "one million of these trees will fix 0.9 teragrams of carbon dioxide" wikipedia claims this figure as over a 40 year lifespan.
    Using that as a WAG (and assuming they are accounting for loss).
    0.9 teragrams is 900,000 tonnes, so 22,500 tonnes for a million trees.
    Your tree solution would require about 50 billion trees to win the prize.
    Now, let's see how much space that would take.
    Let's assume a tree requires 100 square metres of space - (tree in my front yard measures 10m*10m in google earth)
    That's 500 billion square metres of land, or a chunk of land 707 kilometres on a side.
    Again fiddling in Google Earth, 707 kilometres square is the entire North-East United States.

    I'd say you can't afford to win his prize that way.
    And in practical terms that only seems to handle a tiny fraction of mankind's total output.
    I don't know if sequestering underground is any cheaper or more scalable, but at least it takes up less space.
  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:02PM (#17956310)
    The US did not sign Kyoto. George Bush did not believe in global warming, so he reneged on the agreement made by Clinton to sign the protocol.

    Clinton did not sign the Kyoto agreement because the Senate voted 98-0 to reject it.
  • by I'll Provide The War ( 1045190 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:33PM (#17956776)
    Close, but it was 95-0. sts/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=105&session=1& vote=00205 []

    Declares that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997 or thereafter which would: (1) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex 1 Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period; or (2) result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.
  • Re:I'm sure we could (Score:3, Informative)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @07:58PM (#17957102)

    One word: Nuclear.

    It's pronounced 'nucular.' Nu-cu-lar.

  • by mark_osmd ( 812581 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @09:58PM (#17958202)
    Advanced nuclear designs can fix the whole nuclear waste problem, too bad the Clinton admin killed off the Integral Fast reactor. With advanced nuclear designs like IFR, you get 1) walk away safety (the reactor is passively stable) 2) little waste problems 3) pyronuclear processing of waste. 4) little to no chance of proliferation because the interesting Pu isotopes for bombs are all intermixed with very radioactive waste products 5) gets more of the energy out of the fuel than old water reactor designs that bury the most of the waste (and the energy). Yucca mountain doesn't have to be an issue anymore. [] Mark
  • by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @11:26PM (#17958948) .html []

    "Ecohacker Michael Markels claims he has a megafix for global warming: Supercharge the growth of ocean plankton with vitamin Fe and let a zillion CO2 scrubbers bloom."
  • Re:Plant Respiration (Score:3, Informative)

    by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @01:35AM (#17959850) Homepage Journal
    The prize conditions do mention that the carbon has to be kept out of the atmosphere for 1000 years, so if you make a useful product, you've got to be sure that it is not useful in a way that it goes back into the atmopshere. Fuel is out, some plastics which degrade are out too. For long term storage, mineralization looks good: 5626/1677 [] though not terribly useful. Need to read whole article so this might send you to the library. It might be better to put the carbon into soil as charcoal, using the only a portion of the potential combustion energy from biofuels. Engineer-Poet has been working on this.
    Don't burn coal -selling-solar.html []
  • by Renew and Improved ( 935803 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:40AM (#17960314)

    Grasslands can sequester enormous amounts of carbon in the form of soil organic matter, especially humus. Unless disturbed by plowing or poor land management, humus can remain stable for hundreds or thousands of years. Healthy grasslands can sequester considerably more carbon than forests, because grasslands can keep growing soils indefinitely. This is how grassland soils 1-4 meters (3-12 feet) thick -- the agricultural soils of today -- got built over much of the temperate zone.

    Advantages of sequestering carbon with grasslands:

    1. Carbon sequestration in grassland soils can be done inexpensively, using existing technology that is available everywhere in the world -- see below for details.
    2. The amount of carbon that can be sequestered is enormous -- often 10-20 metric tonnes/hectare (4-9 tons/acre) per year of organic matter, which is about half carbon by weight (56%).
    3. The amount of land available to do this on is also enormous. Grasslands occupy 20-25% of Earth's land area. There are also huge areas of desertified land that were grassland 50 to 5000 years ago, such as South Africa's Karoo (a grassland 300 years ago, mostly desert now), much of North Africa and the Middle East, and large portions of the western U.S.
    4. Crops can be planted in grasslands, using a method called pasture cropping (see []). Most farmed soil loses organic matter (and therefore carbon) to the atmosphere and erosion. Pasture-cropped land can grow soil.
    5. The same management that increases carbon sequestration also generates other benefits, such as increasing soil's ability to capture water (thus reducing floods and droughts, and increasing groundwater recharge), improving habitat for wildlife, and increasing biodiversity.

    Let's do some calculations:

    • Earth's land area is, conservatively, 148,300,000 km2, or 14,830,000,000 hectares
    • Grasslands cover 1/5 of that, about 300,000,000 ha.
    • Sequestering 7 tonnes/ha/year on that land absorbs 2.1 Gt/year, which is 1/3 of the 6.5 Gt emitted annually by burning fossil fuels and making concrete. It won't do the whole job, but it's a start.

    How do grasslands sequester carbon? Here's how it works:

    1. Perennial grasses use atmospheric carbon to build their tissues. (Most of the dry weight of a plant is atmosphere-derived carbohydrates such as cellulose; very little comes from the soil.) About half a perennial grass plant's mass is roots below ground.
    2. Grazing animals eat the plants' leaves, and then move elsewhere, as wild herds moved in nature.
    3. The grass plants pull nutrients out of some of their roots to grow new leaves, and shed the excess roots. These roots feed soil organisms, which convert a large portion of them to soil humus.
    4. The grasses regrow their leaves. At this point they have still not regrown completely, and further grazing would damage them.
    5. The plants regrow their roots.
    6. At this point the plants have completely recovered from grazing, and can be grazed again.

    This is how grasslands and grazers evolved to function. This type of "pulsed grazing" can sequester enormous amounts of carbon, and grow 10-30 mm of new soil per year.

    Animal behavior is crucial

    The trick to making this work is the behavior of the grazing animals. Grazers must behave in the ways grass plants are adapted to. That means moving onto the land in a tightly bunched herd (as wild grazers did because of predation), grazing and trampling intensively, then moving on and giving plants adequate time to recover before they get grazed again.

    If grazer behavior is correct, the grasses don't much care whether they are grazed by bison, kangaroos, or cattle. If the behavior is incorrect (too-frequent grazing that weakens plants that are not yet fully recovered, or too-infrequent grazing that we

  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:44AM (#17960340) Homepage

    Don't pin it all on the long-hairs - people are also a bit worried about nuclear reactors/plants blowing the fuck up on their doorstop, or the effects from such an explosion raining down on their homes. Those folks are not greenist nutters - they have legitimate worries.
    No, they have illegitimate scare-monger derived worries. How, exactly, does a sensible nuclear reactor "blow up"? Don't bother to cite Chernobyl, as nobody but the safety-unconcerned Soviets would ever dream of building a flammable graphite shielded reactor, much less one with a huge positive void coefficient like the RBMK. The worst nuclear accident in US history was TMI-2, a 30% meltdown, and it was completely contained until the asshats in charge of cleanup decided it would be OK to simply vent some of the excess radioactive steam and hydrogen into the atmosphere. Even still, there were no injuries or deaths from the incident, and the projected number of additional cancer deaths from the vented radioactive material has been calculated at approximately one. Now take a sensibly designed reactor with a negative void coefficient (like the French use) and there's no problem.

    And don't confuse the US with the rest of the world. The rest of the world hasn't "politicized" nuclear power to the extent you claim the US has. Maybe the US will take the lead from other countries, once it's realised it's beneficial.
    Where did I confuse the US with the rest of the world? I thought I made it pretty clear with the Jimmy Carter bit which geopolitical sphere I was referring to.
  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:53AM (#17960390) Homepage

    OK, so at present consumption we've got 100 years.... Instead of 20% we go to 100% plus transportation and heating and we've got less than 10 years, fifty with your scratch dirt reserves, it's hardly worth building the reactors.
    Way to handwave away the numbers, man. 100 years' reserves we've already found. Projected reserves are 500 years worth. And allow me to repeat (more slowly this time, so it's heard) that with fuel reprocessing those numbers go up by a factor of ten. That equals 1000 and 5000 years worth, respectively. Even converting all electric power generation, that only increases consumption seven-fold, giving us 140 years on current reserves, 700 years projected total including undiscovered reserves.
  • Re:I'm sure we could (Score:5, Informative)

    by trentblase ( 717954 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @07:07AM (#17961458)
    If you plated the entire US with solar panels, using the most efficient panels we currently know how to make, and you assume that there is no cloud cover or other weather obscuring the sun at any point during the year... you still wouldn't have a significant fraction of the power used by the entire US.

    Unless you have some calculations to back that up, I call BS. According to [], "Every day, more energy falls on the U.S. than we use in an entire year." Since solar panels are more than 3% efficient (quick googling tells us the most advanced ones are over 35%), you fail it. Saying this is not possible is simply foolish, and it undermines your larger argument of whether it is advisable.
  • Geritol Effect (Score:2, Informative)

    by chr1sb ( 642707 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @10:35AM (#17962520)
    Around ten years ago scientists were investigating something somewhat similar to what you are proposing, except minus the genetic engineering and toxic blooms. Some parts of the oceans are iron poor. Iron is of course an essential component for life. By adding small amounts of it to these parts of the ocean, significant quantities of phytoplankton grow, consuming large quantities of CO2. There is an article on this here [].
  • by regular_gonzalez ( 926606 ) on Saturday February 10, 2007 @02:51PM (#17964334)
    Of course, Clinton's signing of Kyoto was entirely symbolic.

    On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98),[40][41] which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations.[42] The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification.
    -- From Wikipedia [].

    So, were you ignorant of this fact or just being disingenuous? Neither option lends much credibility to your opinions, I'm afraid.

Your program is sick! Shoot it and put it out of its memory.