One number will determine the fate of our planet. 350 parts per million is the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide above which the earth can no longer naturally sequester (absorb) the greenhouse gas and climate change occurs. 350.org, a nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about this essential benchmark, is creating an international movement to pressure political leaders to agree to adopt strong climate legislation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.
In a recent post on Treehugger.com, 350.org Co-founder and Director Bill McKibben describes the significance of the 350 limit and also outlines the challenges we face in order to meet it:
It's as if we suddenly discovered what normal body temperature was, so we'd be able to tell when we were running a fever. In that sense, it came as a great relief.
But in every other sense, it was a pretty devastating number. For one thing, we're already past it, at 390 ppm and rising two ppm annually--that's why the Arctic is melting. For another thing, it means the work nations and individuals must do to reduce their carbon footprints is much larger, and must happen much more swiftly, than we'd believed. Hansen's data [Jim Hansen and his team of NASA researchers established the 350 metric] shows that as a planet we'd need to get off coal by 2030 in order for the planet's forests and oceans ever to bring atmospheric levels back down below 350--that's the toughest economic and political challenge the earth has ever faced.
The time to hesitate, to doubt, and to second-guess has passed. We now have a quantifiable metric for the success of our environmental efforts, and it's going to take a hell of a lot of collaboration and innovation to meet it before the effects of climate change become irreversible.
This Saturday, October 24th, 350.org is hosting a global call to action to mobilize members of the international community. So far there are 3,769 events planned in 163 countries. By demonstrating to our respective governments that there is definite support for climate legislation, we pressure them to act boldly in Copenhagen. The following video captures the essence of the event:
To find a 350 rally near you, or to start your own if there isn't one already, click here.
We have an immense amount of work to do and a desperately short amount of time to do it. If we are to ever succeed in this endeavor, we are going to need everyone's help. We need to send a clear message to our political leaders that we won't accept anything less than a commitment to carbon legislation in Copenhagen that respects the 350 ppm limit. Let's get out there on Saturday and make our voices heard.