Take Action on Oct. 24: Join One of the Largest Global Protests in the Fight Against Climate Change
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"It's gotten so big at this point that I really can't even wrap my head around it," Kelly Blynn, 350.org's Latin American organizer based in Ecuador, said via e-mail. "Stories continue to pour in from the most difficult places to organize on earth right now, like Honduras and Afghanistan, gives me hope the world might sing together and give our leaders a big nudge in the direction we need to be going."
Lofty Goals, Economic Battles
Reducing CO2 emission to 350 ppm may not be an unattainable goal, but it is wildly ambitious. Already the U.S. climate-control bill in the House is under attack from fossil-fuel corporations, and efforts are under way to strip the EPA of its power to regulate CO2 emissions.
A push-back against climate-change activism is under way, even as the concept becomes a standard paradigm. Blynn noted that Ecuador initially supported the 350 ppm goal, until "after understanding the implications for their oil-based economy" they backed out.
But it should be noted that McKibben and six Middlebury College students successfully booted up a similarly radical, some might have said quixotic, effort in 2007 to get Congress to commit to reducing U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
They initiated a surprisingly effective campaign in 2007 called " Step It Up." The campaign organized national days of action in April and November that year with 1,400 events, all calling on politicians to step up and take ownership of, and action on, global warming.
Everything from ski runs down endangered glaciers in Montana to a high school assembly in El Cerrito, Calif., was involved. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton included "Step It Up's" demand that the U.S. rollback greenhouse-gas emission 80 percent by 2050 in their climate-change platforms. (Of course, getting that in practice is a little harder.)
"Step It Up" grew out of a five-day walk across Vermont organized by McKibben. In 2006, roughly 1,000 people marched to the state capital demanding action on climate change. In each case -- with the Vermont march, the national day of action and now the 350.org International Day of Action -- activism started with concern over what was, by all accounts, something of concern primarily to scientists and committed environmentalists. McKibben then exported that concern to the mainstream.
Of "Step It Up's" success, McKibben said, "We felt ... smug until a few weeks later, when in the summer of 2007, the Arctic began to melt so rapidly." Shortly afterwards, McKibben recounted, James Hansen head of NASA's Institute for Space Studies released a climate-change broadside.
Hansen stated: "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 suggests that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."
They have their work cut out for them. Even as hard-core global-warming skeptics lose traction, mainstream economists suggest stopping climate change is not economically feasible. Mainstream commentators concerned about climate change suggest that 400 to 500 ppm of CO2 might be acceptable. They argue efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emission any more would, as Nicholas Stern, author of the British government's Stern Review said, lead to "an abandonment or reversal of growth and development."
In other worlds, saving international capitalism is more important than saving the planet. At best the poor nations and people of the world will have to live with the consequences of global warming, as rich, developed nations figure out ways to protect themselves.