12. Sir Richard Branson

CEO of Virgin Galactic, founder of the Carbon War Room

Armstrong, Chouinard, Branson, and White     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Sends people to The bottom of the ocean, outer space

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is currently building a spaceport near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and testing ­vehicles that will take commoners willing to part with $200,000 on a six-minute suborbital spin around Earth. Virgin ­Oceanic, meanwhile, ­announced earlier this year that it would use the DeepFlight Challenger, a submersible “ocean plane,” to explore the five deepest spots on the ocean floor, with Branson at the controls for at least one of the dives. All of which would seem only to cement his billionaire-playboy reputation if he weren’t also bankrolling one of the world’s most serious attempts at carbon mitigation. Launched in 2009 by Branson, 61, and three other businessmen, the Carbon War Room is a Washington, D.C., group that connects scientists and entre­preneurs with a focus on 25 “battles”—from alternative ­energy to livestock management to green construction materials. In typical style, Branson is harnessing the power of ­publicity—he personally oversees the War Room’s Gigaton Prizes, which give bragging rights to companies, like Nike and ­Vodafone, that have made big moves in the battle against carbon.

By the Numbers 430: customers who’ve signed on for Virgin Galactic flights

Second Opinion “What ­Branson has done is focus people on the part of carbon ­reduction that gets too little attention,” says Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club. “A huge amount of the carbon we emit is ­uneconomic waste. We don’t have bad technology, we have bad markets, and the Carbon War Room is the only place I know of that focuses on identifying the sources of market failure.”

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