SIR Richard Branson, a billionaire businessman known for his bravura exploits and sense of adventure as much as for his business acumen, has put his money where his mouth is. In an extraordinary gesture of commitment to the environment, he has pledged as much as $3 billion over the next 10 years to tackle global warming.
The money is an estimate of his anticipated personal profits from his airlines and rail company, so the amount is not precise. But anywhere close would be a dramatic investment in a cleaner environment through developing new sources of energy.
Saying that the money would be invested in research and alternative energy businesses, including those in the Virgin Group he controls, Sir Richard said, "We must not be the generation responsible for irreversibly damaging the environment."
He is of the generation that came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and he got his start with mail-order record sales and a well-stocked record store in London's Oxford Street. From those beginnings, he has gone on to amass an extensive business empire and considerable personal fortune.
His investment in technologies to foster a greener world, specifically through the development of alternatives to fossil fuels, is thought to be the largest ever in that field by an individual. In making that commitment, he joins a list of wealthy philanthropists including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who are using their money to support charitable endeavors or social causes.
Sir Richard's financial stake in developing alternative fuels to help mitigate climate change is so significant that according to experts it could surpass that of some governments. Here in the United States, budgeted funds for renewable energy research are about $1 billion a year.
There is a slow, but growing recognition of the potentially devastating impact of global warming. For most of us, doing something about it means turning down the thermostat or looking for a more fuel-efficient car.
Sir Richard, being somewhat more well-heeled, is generating significantly greater resources for the same goal.