I love this: Richard Branson offers a $25m prize to the scientist that finds a way to reduce greenhouse gas. People love a good contest.
I remember my disappointment, as a child, that my new chemistry set required the user to actually read the directions and therefore sat is a box. So I am guessing that my opportunity to win the big prize probably passed me by long ago.
It's no secret that I watch a lot of reality TV. Most of it is focused on the idea of "normal" people in unusual circumstances persevering to win (Amazing Race, Survivor, etc). So the concept of mobilizing incredibly talented scientists similarly is fascinating to me. If people will endure a couple of months locked in a house to win $500K, what will scientists do for 25 mil?
I suppose that you could say that the scientists that could solve the problem are likely already focused on it. But some of the side effects of the announcement may be an increased awareness of the issue, getting students more interested in scientific pursuits (especially those that impact the environment) and renewing a sense of excitement about the issue in the scientific community.
I'd love to think that some day soon, someone in a lab coat will be stepping up to collect an over sized check.