British airline tycoon pledges $25 million to spur research aimed at winning greenhouse-gas battle

Sir Richard Branson, chair of the $7.2 billion US London-based Virgin Group of companies, said the contest – called the Virgin Earth Challenge, will utilize a panel of judges including Branson and Gore evaluating submissions.

The goal is to find a way of removing one billion tonnes of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years. The winner will receive $5 million US up front and the remaining $20 million after the 10-year time frame. If no winner is identified after five years the judges may decide to extend the competition.

“The Earth cannot wait 60 years. We need everybody capable of discovering an answer to put their minds to it today,” Branson said.

The announcement comes a week after an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from the world's top scientists predicted global temperatures would increase by between 1.8 and four degrees this century. The report said it was very likely these rises in temperature were due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels.