Billionaire Elon Musk has offered inventors $US100 million ($129 million) on Earth Day to fight global warming by developing carbon dioxide removal technology for the “largest incentive prize in history”.
- The challenge was announced after the entrepreneur appeared on a live stream discussing carbon removal
- Participants are tasked with developing technology that removes 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually
- The UN says carbon removal technology is needed to slow global warming
“Right now we’ve only got one planet,” said Mr Musk. “Even a 0.1 per cent chance of disaster — why run that risk? That’s crazy!”
The announcement came shortly after XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis and Elon Musk sat down for a live stream hosted on Twitter to discuss the importance of creating carbon removal solutions
In January, Mr Musk announced his intention to offer $US100 million in prizes and set out the contest rules on Earth Day.
Organisers said the “largest incentive prize in history” will last for four years through to Earth Day 2025.
Mr Musk’s XPRIZE Carbon Removal is aimed at finding a viable solution for taking 1,000 tonnes out of the atmosphere annually, with potential to scale up dramatically.
“I think this is one of those things that is going to take a while to figure out what the right solution is.”
Contenders must have a plan to remove carbon for at least 100 years. Organisers said they would get feedback by mid-May and turn the guidelines into rules.
Mr Musk has built a reputation as an industrialist focused on environmentalism, turning electric car maker Tesla into the world’s most valuable vehicle company and expanding into solar power.
He had conversations about the prize with Mr Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation.
On Monday, XPRIZE announced two winners of a separate, $20 million prize to develop technologies to covert emissions from power plants into concrete.
One is CarbonCure Technologies, based in Canada and backed by separate funds by Bill Gates, Amazon and others.
The United Nations said carbon removal technology would be needed to limit an increase in global warming and avoid catastrophic climate impacts.
But some environmentalists have argued that focusing on carbon removal reflects a lack of resolve to end the use of fossil fuels.