Billionaire businessman Elon Musk on Thursday offered $100 million in prizes to inventors to develop ways to combat global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or ocean.
“Right now we only have one planet,” said Musk, CEO of electric carmaker Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) Inc. “Even a 0.1% chance of disaster, why take that risk? crazy!”.
In January, Musk had announced his intention to offer $100 million in prizes and laid out the rules of the contest on Thursday, Earth Day. What organizers called the “biggest incentive prize in history” will run for four years, until Earth Day 2025.
“I don’t think we are currently doomed,” Musk said. “If we go ahead, complacent, there is some risk of non-linear climate change.”
Carbon capture and storage has attracted growing interest as a warming climate has melted glaciers, intensified tropical storms and caused “sunny day flooding” in more and more coastal areas.
While countries are striving to reduce emissions, scientists say carbon removal technology will also be crucial to the goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050.
Carbon capture projects have already attracted support from Silicon Valley companies seeking a technological solution to climate change, from public officials concerned about slow emissions reductions, including oil companies, seeking to offset their climate impact .
The technology is not yet commercially viable. Removing carbon costs more than $300 per metric ton in a world that emits greenhouse gases equivalent to about 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. According to some estimates, some 10 billion tons of carbon capture will be needed by 2050.
Musk’s $100 million XPRIZE aims to find a viable solution to remove 1,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year, with the potential to increase exponentially.
Musk has built a reputation as a green-focused industrialist, building electric car maker Tesla into the world’s most valuable vehicle company and expanding into solar power so customers can charge their vehicles without carbon emissions. .
Contest entrants must “show a sustainable path to low cost on a gigaton scale,” organizers of the XPRIZE said on their website.
There are plenty of Silicon Valley companies eager to compete. Venture capital-backed carbon removal companies raised $336.5 million last year, according to PitchBook.
On Monday, XPRIZE announced two winners of another $20 million prize to develop technologies that turn power plant emissions into concrete. One of them is CarbonCure Technologies, based in Canada and backed by separate funds from Bill Gates, Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN ) and others.