Bookmark and Share

More press releases

For Immediate Release, December 21, 2009

Contact: Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 536-9351,

More Than 100 Groups Endorse Petition to EPA to Cap Carbon Dioxide Pollution at 350 Parts Per Million

Petition Also Endorsed by Scientist Dr. James Hansen and
Sierra Club Board Member Dr. Michael Dorsey

WASHINGTON—  More than 100 groups have issued a letter supporting a legal petition filed earlier this month by the Center for Biological Diversity and that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to scientifically establish national safe limits for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act. The petition seeks to have greenhouse gases designated as “criteria” air pollutants and atmospheric CO2 capped at 350 parts per million (ppm), the level leading scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The letter states: “We are writing in support of the petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and to cap greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act[’s]. . . national ambient air quality (NAAQS) program. . . For four decades, the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe through a proven, successful system of pollution control that saves lives and creates economic benefits exceeding its costs by many times. It’s time to fully use our strongest existing tool for reducing greenhouse gas pollution: the Clean Air Act.”

Individuals supporting the petition include eminent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and Sierra Club Board Member Dr. Michael Dorsey.

Said Dr. Dorsey: "The Center for Biological Diversity and's petition is a bold step that can further enable President Obama to move in the right direction to quickly rein in climate change. Organizations and commentators that suggest the contrary misunderstand the urgency of avoiding a catastrophically destabilized climate.” Dorsey is an assistant professor in Dartmouth College’s Environmental Studies Program, director of the college’s Climate Justice Research Project, a national board member of the Sierra Club and a cofounding board member of Islands First.

Stated Dr. James Hansen: “Setting science-based national pollution caps for greenhouse gases – such as no more than 350 parts per million for CO2 – would mark a critical step in the fight against global warming, and this petition is one way to bring us closer to that goal.”

Among the diverse group of organizations signing the endorsement letter are Friends of the Earth, Audubon chapters (ranging from Audubon South Carolina to Golden Gate Audubon), interfaith groups such as Colorado Interfaith Power and Light, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Community Coalition for Environmental Justice of Seattle, Clean Air Carolina, and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

“The Clean Air Act is a bipartisan bill signed by a Republican president. Leading scientists at NASA and around the world say we need to get to 350 ppm. This petition simply asks EPA to do its job as science, the law, and common sense require,” said Bill McKibben of

“Now is the time to implement the Clean Air Act. We urge EPA to move swiftly to grant the petition and use our strongest existing tool – the Clean Air Act – to reduce greenhouse gas pollution now. Any new global warming legislation must build upon and not replace successful environmental protections,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Obama administration has proposed emissions reduction targets of just 3 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, far below the cuts of approximately 45 percent necessary to get back to 350 ppm.1 Our current atmospheric CO2 level is approximately 385 ppm.

The administration has argued that its hands are tied by the weak cap-and-trade bills passed by the House of Representatives and under consideration by the Senate. In a report released in Copenhagen, titled Yes, He Can: President Obama’s Power to Make an International Climate Commitment Without Waiting for Congress, the Center concludes that the president need not wait for Congress to act before taking strong action to reduce U.S. emissions. “President Obama can lead, rather than follow, by using his power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute, who attended the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

Click here to read the endorsement letter.

Click here to read the petition.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 240,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


1 The administration expressed its goal as a 17-percent reduction from the 2005 greenhouse gas emission level. The United Nations and most of the world express reduction goals based on 1990 levels. A 17-percent reduction from 2005 is equivalent to a 3-percent reduction from 1990.

Go back