February 26, 2021
I’ve always fantasized about winning a preposterously large amount of money on a Megabucks ticket, and then using it to find new ways to fight climate change.
Elon Musk, who already has a preposterously large amount of money, has beaten me to it.
Specifically, he is funding the nonprofit XPRIZE, which sponsors design competitions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges. It has announced that it will award $100 million for teams that can create workable, large-scale, carbon removal strategies.
Winning won’t be easy: successful entries will be the best solutions to a vexing problem: how to pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and lock it away permanently in an environmentally benign way. The winning teams will have to demonstrate a rigorous, validated scale model of their solution at a level of carbon removal of 1 ton of CO2 per day, and further must demonstrate to a team of judges the ability of their solution to economically scale to gigaton levels.
Says XPRIZE’s chairman, Peter Diamandis, “For humanity to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the Earth’s temperature rise to no more than 1.5˚(C) of pre-industrial levels, or even 2˚(C), we need bold, radical tech innovation and scale up that goes beyond limiting CO2 emissions, but actually removes CO2 already in the air and oceans. If humanity continues on a business-as-usual path, the global average temperature could increase 6˚(C) by the year 2100.” To that end, the ultimate goal of the competition is to “collectively achieve the 10 gigaton per year carbon removal target by 2050, to help fight climate change and restore the Earth’s carbon balance.”
The 15 top teams selected will receive $1 million each, while the Grand Prize Winner will earn a cool $50 million. Second place will take home $20 million, and third place will get $10 million. And twenty-five $200,000 student scholarships will also be distributed to student teams competing.
It is a generous contribution to a terrifying global problem. But don’t worry about Musk’s bottom line. According to Forbes, his net worth as of yesterday was $162.8 billion dollars.