Sunday, February 11, 2007

Richard Branson and Global Warming

Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines, has offered a $25 million prize to anyone who devises a technology for removing carbon dioxide from the air. Branson's new venture, Virgin Galactic, is planning to offer space flights to tourists beginning in 2009, at a cost of about $200,000 per flight.

I have two questions for Branson. How much carbon dioxide will be emitted by each of these space flights? Is it worth doing this much damage to the environment to give a brief thrill to a few tourists?

People have questioned Branson's sincerity by pointing out how much carbon dioxide Virgin Airlines emits, and he answers that people would simply take other flights if he closed his business. But that excuse does not apply to Virgin Galactic, since Branson is the only one planning to offer space flights to tourists.

By planning tourist space flights and offering this award, Branson is implying that we can continue to emit carbon dioxide as if there were no tomorrow, because scientists will invent a way to solve the problem of global warming. It is obviously dangerous and irresponsible to imply that people should not make a personal effort to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.

The newspaper articles that described this prize showed Branson playfully tossing a globe up in the air. Maybe this is meant to symbolize the space tourists who will be amusing themselves by playing with the earth.


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