Desmond Tutu Endorses 350 Target


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The people at continue to amaze with their organizing and advocacy for climate action. Their latest triumph is getting Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of South Africa, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to endorse a target of 350 parts per million of CO2--the number many scientists say is a safe level. In a widely circulated opinion editorial, Tutu said, "In South Africa, we showed that if we act on the side of justice, we have the power to turn tides. Worldwide, we have a chance to start turning the tide of climate change with just such a concerted effort today."He went on:

The new African assertiveness stems from new science. After Arctic sea ice melted dramatically in 2007, scientists began re-evaluating their predictions. It became clear that basic survival was at stake for many countries. The low-lying islands of the Maldives, though poor, have begun saving a portion of each year's national budget to buy a new homeland if, and when, their current home sinks beneath the waves. Kenya's ongoing drought vividly illustrates what uncontrolled climate change might bring to the African continent.

Many top scientists agree that there's a number the world needs to know. It's 350 - as in 350 parts per million of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The growing consensus is that it's the most carbon we can have in the atmosphere without causing terrible climate havoc. Since we're already past that level, at 390 parts per million,it also implies that we need much swifter political action than governments have supported in the past to reverse this trend. It also means, among other things, that we need a rapid effort to replace the burning of polluting coal with cleaner energy sources everywhere


Tutu also plugged's International Day of Action, which is Saturday. In the Bay Area of California, where I live, thousands will join the Surfriders Foundation and other organizations for a series of actions including a giant bike ride around the city of San Francisco.

The 350 in's name signifies the safe level of parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. NASA's James Hansen said we must return to 350 to hold off the worst effects of climate change.

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