Open Letter from Bill McKibben to the Climate Crisis Movement
- 350 ppm is the tipping point for serious climate destabilization
350.org, April 15, 2008
Straight to the Source
For hard-boiled political organizers, we're basically nostalgic sentimentalists at heart, and so this week we're thinking back with great fondness to last April 14, and the 1,400 demonstrations and rallies and events that you organized in all 50 states for the Step It Up National Day of Climate Action. It was an awfully sweet day, with powerful results -- not only was an urgent call to action issued from every corner of the country, but now it's not uncommon to hear Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama echo your call for 80% Carbon Cuts by 2050. And yet global warming continues, so we wanted to bring you up to date with where we are and let you in on the ground floor of our new effort.
* Step It Up has, as you know, joined with lots of other grassroots organizers across the country to form 1Sky, which is picking up real speed as one of the centers of the American fight against climate change. Please help them with their efforts-they report that former Step It Up organizers around the country took the lead in a series of 500 visits to Congressional offices earlier this spring. We think that with their leadership we're very much on track to see significant climate change legislation as soon as President Bush leaves office.
* Meanwhile, the science around climate change has continued to darken. We all watched the Arctic melt last summer, and an ice shelf six times the size of Manhattan crumble in the southern ocean this winter. James Hansen, our foremost climatologist, has just issued the most important scientific assessment of global warming in many years, which you can read here. Basically, it calls for limiting carbon concentrations in the atmosphere to below 350 parts per million. In fact, Hansen says: "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."
* Therefore, our organizing team is launching a new venture: 350.org. The final website won't be ready for a few weeks, but since you're family we're letting you know now. In fact, we hope very much that you'll visit the preliminary website that we've set up and start figuring out how to help.
Here's our goal: We want to take this number, 350, and spread it all over the world. We want every human, if they know nothing else about global warming, to know that 350 represents safety. We want to use protest and music and art and video and the 'net to make that number inescapable, ubiquitous. Everywhere. If we do, it will help move the international negotiations in that direction-just the way that our insistence on 80% cuts by 2050 last spring found its way into the platforms of all the Democratic presidential candidates within days of our demonstrations. This time our target is the international community, which is spending the next 18 months negotiating a follow-up to Kyoto. It may be our last real bite at the apple, so those 18 months need to be well-spent.
If it's going to happen, we'll need to take the creativity and dedication that you all demonstrated last year during Step It Up and go to work on creating an International climate movement. We need your help spreading 350 to your friends and contacts in every corner of the planet. But what we need most right now are your actions and ideas that take the number 350 and drive it home: in art, in music, in political demonstrations, in any other way you can imagine. Already last weekend, 350 Utahns rode their bikes en masse in Salt Lake City. At least for this year, we're not planning on doing everything on a single date; instead, this will be a rolling action. So start thinking how to take this number and get it across!
Don't let it distract you from pressuring your Senator or from working with 1Sky -- that remains crucial. In fact, think of us as the global arm of 1Sky. We just need this commitment to international action to be another part of your hard work on climate change. You can't believe how encouraged people in other parts of the world are to find that Americans are working on these questions -- it breaks down their sense that our country has turned its back on the rest of the world.
So on we go, and we promise to write and let you know if global warming gets stopped so we can all go back to doing other things. In the meantime, so many thanks for being what you are: the immune system for a planet that finds itself in dire straits. We're, as always, deeply grateful.
The 350.org team: Bill McKibben, Jon Warnow, Kelly Blynn, May Boeve, Will Bates, Jeremy Osborn, Jamie Henn, Phil Aroneanu
P.S. -- Some people have asked us if they can help financially in this new effort. The answer, of course, is yes-we could really use the money to hire organizers all around the globe. Some people, in fact, are committing to sending us $350 from the 'economic stimulus' checks the government is mailing out. You can donate online at http://www.350.org/donate but if you'd rather mail a check the address to use is:
350.org c/o Sustainable Markets Foundation Attn. Jay R. Halfon 80 Broad St, Suite 1600 New York, NY 10004
But in truth, if you need to choose, we'd much rather have you organize an action!