chapter  1
48 Pages

Global nature

ByRICHARD PEET, PAUL ROBBINS, MICHAEL WATTS

It is a striking image. A global capitalist whose personal wealth is rooted in an industry, air transportation, distinguished by its massive carbon footprint, and a Nobel prize winning US politician and former Vice-President, honored for his contributions in placing global climate change, and the scientific work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in particular, on the global political agenda. Tossing the globe into the air, British tycoon Sir Richard Branson announced to the world in 2007 that he was offering a $25 million prize for the scientist who discovers a way of extracting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere

– a challenge to find the world’s first viable design to capture and remove carbon dioxide from the air. Big Science meets Big Business meets Big Politics. But the prize – known as the Virgin Earth Challenge – was immediately attacked by a leading climate scientist, Kevin Anderson, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, who offered the following assessment of Sir Richard’s philanthropy: “He’s misguided, misinformed and potentially quite dangerous in making people think there is some great technological hope out there.” Sir Richard, accused of rank hypocrisy for creating a prize based on the profits of a firm and an industry responsible for massive carbon releases, replied: “I could ground my airline today, but British Airways would simply take its place” (The Guardian February 7th 2007; http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/feb/ 10/theairlineindustry.climatechange). Well, as a Berkeley bumper stick it has it: “At least the war on the environment is going well.”