350 is just a number. Wouldn't "Climate Emergency" or "Clean Energy Now" be a better call to action?
350 translates into many languages—numerals are among the few things most people around the world recognize. More to the point, 350 tells us what we need to do. Far from boring, it's the most important number in the world. It contains, rightly understood, the recipe for a very different world, one that moves past cheap fossil fuel to more sensible technologies, more closely-knit communities, and a more equitable global society.
Why another organization—there are already too many things going on!
It's true, there are lots of organizations and individuals working hard to solve the climate crisis. This is great news—it means that we don't really need to build a movement from scratch because it's already bubbling up all over the world.
Our hope is that we can shine a spotlight on the work of existing organizations, highlighting everyone's incredible work and knitting these many efforts together for a powerful and unified call to action—a call that is global, scientific, and specific. By providing a common platform with the 350 target, we can help to stitch together a whole that is truly greater than the sum of its parts, a diverse movement that speaks with one collective voice.
Do you measure 350 in CO2 or CO2e?
First, let's define the term: CO2e is a calculation used by climate scientists to account for other greenhouse gases—like methane—that contribute climate change. It converts those gases to "equivalent carbon dioxide," and is often used by scientists and policy makers to offer a single metric that can be used for all greenhouse gases.
The initial catalyst for the 350 campaign was James Hansen's landmark paper. "Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" In this paper, Dr. Hansen identifies 350 ppm as the upper boundary for CO2 concentrations — not CO2-e.
Hansen focused on CO2 as the key greenhouse gas because it is the most prevalent in our atmosphere, has the longest life-cycle, meaning we'll be dealing with the consequences of our actions today for over 100 years, and it is most integrated into industrial economies. In other words, cutting CO2 is the key challenge in combatting global warming, and will be the key feature of any international climate treaty.
Since 350.org formed a year ago, two things have led 350 supporters to take other greenhouse gases into account and start seeing 350 ppm in terms of CO2e. First, we've seen the impacts of climate change happening even more quickly than predicted. Just in 2009 there have been increased floods across
|Southeast Asia, a key ice bridge in the arctic melted years ahead of schedule, and places like Australia continue to be ravaged by drought. Scientists are increasingly focused on the role of potent, short-term greenhouse gases, such as Methane (which is 25 times as potent as CO2—though there's far less of it). As we think about how to combat climate change in the short term, taking these gases into account makes more and more sense.
Second, as the 350 movement has grown more and more of the groups involved, particularly groups in developing countries, do work that focuses on greenhouse gases other than CO2. These include large scale meat production or improper waste management, both leading sources of methane, industrial production of CFCs and other dangerous chemical pollutants, and more. Many of these pollution sources have profound local impacts on humans and the environment, as well as being contributers to climate change.