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The Earth’s Bright Future

an article by Beth Pearce

The history of human progress in this world is remarkable. Our successful development of complex societies and technologies is impressive, but has it been entirely positive? The legacy of human progress and development has left an indelible mark on our planet, and this negative consequence now threatens the very future of the Earth. The increase we now see in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere is caused by an increase in lethal carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Some assert that this climate change is an inherent quality in the natural evolution of the planet, but most agree that human behavior is largely to blame.

An unlikely source has emerged to combat this problem by offering incentive for others to develop technology to save the planet. British adventurer, businessman, airline tycoon, media mogul Sir Richard Branson has launched The Virgin Earth Challenge, offering a $25 million reward to the scientist (or group of scientists) that develops the technology to remove carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere. In competing for the largest ever science and technology prize in history, our world’s greatest inventors and innovators will not only be financially rewarded, but will potentially save the planet. Sir Richard Branson is trying to ensure that the tremendous achievements of human society are also good for the environment.

Our modern civilization has the capacity for great technological innovation, yet we have not generated a way to turn back the tide of global warming. Scientists who devote their careers to developing technologies that will benefit the future of our planet should be rewarded; that is what this challenge aims to do. It is an important step that may shift the priorities of our brightest minds to the preservation of our planet. Sir Richard Branson believes that, “the winner of The Virgin Earth Challenge will help to reverse the collision course our beautiful world is currently on. They will not only make history but preserve history for many, many generations to come”.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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It's been a year since I wrote the above remarks about the failure of the nation states to address the problem of global warming, and it seems that nothing has changed.  Here is the statement from leading environmental NGOs about the latest international conference on the environment being held in Warsaw, Poland.

Enough is enough.

We have said we stand in solidarity with the millions impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, and with all climate impacted people. Our solidarity compels us to tell the truth about COP 19 – the Warsaw Climate Conference.

The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis.

The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens - with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry. When Japan announced that it was following Canada and backtracking on emission cut commitments previously made, and Australia gave multiple signals that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized.

This week saw a “finance ministerial” with almost no actual finance, and loss and damage talks that have stalled because rich countries refuse to engage on the substance of an international mechanism. Warsaw has not seen any increase in emission reductions nor increased support for adaptation before 2020 – on these things it has actually taken us backward. And a clear pathway to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015 is missing.

We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations who actually come to negotiate in good faith. . ...more.

This report was posted on March 13, 2007.

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