News briefs: Reefs reveal warming may have preceded pollution

Plus, How to win Tesla titan’s $100 million carbon-capture prize and what's behind the solar industry's sizzling stock prices

Reefs reveal warming may have preceded pollution

With the knowledge that, for instance, ice festivals on London’s River Thames disappeared due to warming that came before industrial era pollution, some have argued that current climate change is, at least in part, due to natural causes. Now, reports the Hong Kong-based South China Post, an investigation of the coral reefs surrounding the tiny Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, suggest the coral formations began warming up in about 1825, long before the era of emissions that followed the Industrial Revolution. Using uranium dating techniques, scientists from the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology found a continuous climate record going back to 1520.

Un-Musked: How to win Tesla titan’s $100 million carbon-capture prize

Elon Musk said last month that he was giving away a $100 million prize for the “best carbon capture technology.” And now we know the details. In a contest to be administered by the sustainability oriented Xprize Foundation, the world’s richest man is looking for the best tech to remove carbon from the atmosphere, reports Bloomberg. At present, most carbon capture comes from directly sucking CO₂ from the emissions of power plants or factories and then burying it in deep holes. In the contest, competitors will have to demonstrate a method for capturing as much as one ton of CO₂ per day from the air, while proving to judges that the technology can be scaled up to remove as much as 1 billion tons a year.

The solar industry sizzles – and so do its stocks

For several years after the 2016 collapse and bankruptcy of SunEdison — then the world’s largest renewables company — the solar industry became very tentative, with no companies in the sector going public between then and early 2019. But now that dam has burst, reports Bloomberg, with dozens of IPOs and special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deals in the past year as homeowners, government entities and power generators embrace the latest technologies. Fueling the confidence — and soaring stock prices — is government encouragement of green energy, especially in Europe, where Active Solar was the best-performing stock year with a 183% return. “It’s a mega-trend that’s essential for the future of this world,” said Jeff McDermott, head of Nomura Greentech.