Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk teased his latest philanthropic endeavor on Thursday: a contest aimed at encouraging more innovative carbon capture technologies.
“Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” Musk tweeted, adding that he would provide “details next week.”
Musk, who briefly passed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man before a slide in Tesla’s stock price dropped him back a spot, recently asked his Twitter followers for advice on how to best give away his money.
“Critical feedback is always super appreciated, as well as ways to donate money that really make a difference (way harder than it seems),” Musk tweeted earlier this month.
In 2012, Musk signed the Giving Pledge, an initiative launched by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that asks signatories to donate at least half of their wealth within their lifetimes, and has primarily donated toward science and engineering education, renewable energy research, pediatric research, and human space exploration research.
But an estimate by Forbes in September found that Musk has donated just $100 million so far — less than 1% of his net worth.
Still, Musk’s proposed carbon capture contest would go toward a cause that is likely to play a major role in fighting climate change moving forward, espcially under the Biden administration.
A study published Scientific Reports in November concluded that companies and governments urgently need to “start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” a process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Earth’s temperatures are already on track to blow past levels that the Paris climate agreement — which President Joe Biden rejoined Wednesday — set as goals for 2100.
But even if all greenhouse-gas emissions stopped by then, according to the study, at least 33 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would need to be sucked out of the atmosphere each year using carbon capture — roughly the total amount of carbon dioxide the global fossil-fuel industry emitted in 2018 (36 gigatonnes).
The technology is becoming widely accepted as a safe and potentially effective form of geoengineering compared to other approaches, and Biden voiced support for it in his campaign platform, stating that his administration would take steps to “accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture sequestration technology.”
Specifically, Biden wants to make carbon capture more widely available, cheaper, and scalable, and plans to increase federal investments and tax incentives for developing the technology.