| A 2006 study, led by James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, N.Y., who is a member of the new Branson/Gore reward committee, along with scientists from other organizations concludes that, because of a rapid warming trend over the past 30 years, the Earth is now reaching and passing through the warmest levels in the current interglacial period, which has lasted nearly 12,000 years. An "interglacial period" is a time in the Earth's history when the area of Earth covered by glaciers was similar or smaller than at the present time. Recent warming is forcing species of plants and animals to move toward the north and south poles. |
This color-coded map shows a progression of changing global surface temperatures from 1880 to 2005, the warmest ranked year on record. Dark red indicates the greatest warming and dark blue indicates the greatest cooling. Photo: NASA
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson together with former US vice-president Al Gore today launched a reward for scientists to find a way of extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
The so-called Earth Challenge Prize rewards are valued at $25 million in total.
Sir Richard said his wife Joan had come up with the idea of the prize after he mentioned that Gaia Theory inventor James Lovelock had suggested the world may already have crossed a "tipping point".
Branson said: "The earth cannot wait 60 years. We need everybody capable of discovering an answer to put their minds to it today.
"My wife Joan is a down-to-earth, practical Glaswegian. When I told her that Lovelock believed we may already be doomed, she responded by saying 'There are a lot of brilliant minds out there. Surely one of them would be able to come up with a solution'."
Overseeing the innovations are James Hansen, the noted climate scientist and head of the Nasa Institute for Space Studies, the inventor of Gaia theory James Lovelock, UK environmentalist Sir Crispin Tickell and Australian mammologist and palaeontologist Tim Flannery.
Al Gore, the former presidential candidate turned environmental campaigner, joined the Virgin boss.
He said: "It's a challenge to the moral imagination of humankind to actually accept the reality of the situation we are now facing.
"We're not used to thinking of a planetary emergency, and there's nothing in our prior history as a species that equips us to imagine that we, as human beings, could actually be in the process of destroying the habitability of the planet for ourselves."
His recent film, An Inconvenient Truth, focused on global warming.
Carbon capture and storage is already a key area of research.
BP defers decision on carbon capture plant
The Financial Times reports today that oil giant BP has deferred a decision on building one of the world's first "zero emissions" power plants in Scotland because of doubts over the government's willingness to subsidise the -technology.
The plant would convert natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, using the former to generate 475 megawatts of electricity to power 750,000 homes, while the latter would be piped underground for long-term storage, to avoid it reaching the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.
It would be one of the first plants to demonstrate carbon capture and storage technology on a large scale, although several are planned for the UK by other companies. The technology, which is still in the early stages of development, has been hailed as essential to allowing the world to carry on using fossil fuels without adding catastrophically to greenhouse gas concentrations.
The FT says that BP has invested tens of millions of pounds in the proposed plant in Peterhead, on which it has been working for almost two years with Scottish and Southern Energy, but said it would require subsidy to go ahead.
"If the government or society put a value on carbon dioxide, then that value will make projects like this work," the oil company said.
BP said it would postpone the decision on whether to proceed with the Peterhead works until the end of this year or early next year.
However, Mike Childs, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth, the environmental group, said oil companies should not receive such subsidies: "Carbon capture is simply a way for fossil fuel companies to make their businesses more sustainable. If [such] companies are not willing to invest in cleaner technology, they should be regulated to make them."
The World Coal Institute says that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies allow emissions of carbon dioxide to be 'captured' and 'stored' – preventing them from entering the atmosphere. CCS presents one of the most promising options for large-scale reductions in CO2 emissions from energy use.
| Source: World Institute|
CO2 capture is possible from fossil fuel power stations or from other large CO2 sources, such as the chemical, steel or cement industries or from natural gas production. CO2 can be stored in geological formations such as saline aquifers or expired oil and gas reservoirs.
The technologies for geological CCS are all proven and there are a number of large-scale CCS projects in operation today. Current projects include Sleipner in Norway, Weyburn in Canada and In Salah in Algeria.
Further projects are under development around the world, the largest of which is Gorgon in Australia, a joint initiative between ChevronTexaco, Shell and ExxonMobil. The Gorgon Project will store around 2-3 Mt of CO2 per year and plans to be operational by 2010.