Friday news roundup April 23, 2021
Tech billionaire Elon Musk has offered $100m in prize money for the invention of new carbon capture technologies. The CEO of electric carmaker Tesla announced the contest to develop ways to fight global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or ocean on Earth Day. “Right now we’ve only got one planet,” said Musk, “Even a 0.1 percent chance of disaster—why run that risk?” Alongside working to reduce emissions, scientists say carbon removal technology will also be crucial to reaching the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The difficulty is to address both cost and scalability. Removal of carbon can cost more than $300 per metric tonne—each year we emit greenhouse gases equivalent to about 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Musk’s $100m XPRIZE Carbon Removal aims to find a viable solution for removing 1,000 tonnes from the atmosphere annually, with the potential to scale up dramatically.
A better malaria vaccine was proved in trials in Burkina Faso. Malaria—spread by mosquito bites—killed at least four times as many people in Africa last year as Covid-19. The new vaccine, developed by researchers at Oxford University and scientists from Burkina Faso, has proven 77% effective against the disease in early trials, making it the first to ever achieve the WHO’s 75% efficacy goal. There is currently only one malaria vaccine available and it is less than 50% effective. The study will now move to large-scale trials, recruiting more than 4,800 children below the age of three in Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, and Tanzania. The team behind the new vaccine hope it can be approved for use within two years, building on the speed and lessons learned through the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines.
A hospital employee in Italy allegedly skipped work for 15 years. The man from the Calabrian city of Catanzaro apparently continued to be paid a monthly salary amounting to a total of €538,000 (£464,000) despite not having turned up for work since 2005. He now faces charges of abuse of office, forgery, and aggravated extortion, while six managers are also being investigated on suspicion of having played a role in enabling his alleged absenteeism. In 2016 the government tightened a law against absenteeism after several high-profile police investigations revealed it to be rampant across the Italian public sector.
Australia cancelled Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China. The Australian federal government scrapped both the memorandum of understanding and the framework agreement signed between the Victoria state government and China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Beijing’s top economic planning body, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Wednesday. The Belt and Road Initiative deals with Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, aimed to increase Chinese participation in new infrastructure projects. Payne described the deals as “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations.” China has lodged stern representations with Australia over the issue and reserved the right to take more action, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday.