350 OR BUST
For the first time in human history, in May 2013 concentrations of CO2 rose above 400 ppm.
That meanws iIn the geological blink of an eye, we’ve dumped more CO2 into the atmosphere than has built up naturally over the past 800,000 years. A foreboding fact indeed for the future of our climate, our planet and its inhabitants — plant, animal or human.
Prominent climate researchers have long warned that we must reduce the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, to 350 parts per million (ppm) or below in order to stabilize climate change and avoid global catastrophe. The Center for Biological Diversity, along with groups such as 350.org, is advocating strongly for this necessary standard.
Rajendra Pachauri, the United Nations’ principal climate scientist and chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has personally endorsed a 350 ppm target: “What is happening, and what is likely to happen, convinces me that the world must be really ambitious and very determined at moving toward a 350 target." And a United Nations project to quantify the financial costs of climate change on nature concluded that current climate targets just aren’t enough to save the world's coral reefs. Alex Rogers of London's Institute of Zoology declared that current levels of CO2 are already causing damage to reefs, and stabilizing atmospheric CO2 at anything above about 350 ppm will lead to further destruction.
Twenty top climate scientists issued an open letter to President Barack Obama and Congress to “call attention to the large difference between what U.S. politics now seems capable of enacting [targeting reduction to 450 ppm] and what scientists understand is necessary to prevent climatic disruption and protect the human future. . . . We and many others are of the view that these objectives are inadequate to sustain the integrity of global climate and to hold the risk of ruinous climatic change to an acceptably low level.”
THE GLOBAL CARBON PROBLEM
While CO2 isn’t the only global warming pollutant we need to control, it’s the number-one contributor to climate change.
350: THE CRITICAL THRESHOLD
Several lines of evidence show that allowing greenhouse gas levels to remain above 350 ppm for a sustained period of time will lead to dangerously acidic oceans, runaway global warming, and melting of the polar ice caps. Such a climate would be well outside anything experienced in the history of the human species, and would carry with it irreversible cascades of species extinctions and significant dangers for human civilization.
REDUCING CO2 NOW
Along with Bill McKibben’s group 350.org, the Center has called for an immediate reduction of atmospheric CO2, with the goal of an overall concentration of 350 ppm or less to be achieved as quickly as possible. To accomplish that, we support the rapid phasing out of all coal-fired power plants, the highest technologically feasible vehicle-mileage standards, and a moratorium on Arctic oil and gas drilling, among other critical measures.
Will we have the political will to get there?
There’s no doubt that 350 is an ambitious goal, but failing to get to there isn’t a viable option. To date, proposed bills in the U.S. Congress have fallen far short of the ppm goal needed to stave off global catastrophe from climate change. At the Center, we’ve been working hard to get the 350 message out. While we advocate for new legislation and international agreements that would help us reach the 350 ppm target, we’re busy using existing environmental laws, like the Clean Air Act, to help curb global warming pollution now. The Clean Air Act has dramatically reduced air pollution over the past four decades, but is currently under attack in Congress. The Center’s Clean Air Cities campaign seeks to safeguard this critical protection and urge the Obama administration to use the Clean Air Act ambitiously and urgently. But we need your help. To learn more about the Center’s Clean Air Cities Campaign, please click here.
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