What makes a good story?
Clearly, pretending to loft your kid across the countryside in a balloon is the big story.
But what about the fairly extraordinary effort that the kids at 350.org and Bill McKibben are mounting next weekend?
They’ve taken serious scientific analysis—the contention first raised by Jim Hansen that 350 ppm co2 is the target we should be aiming for—and turned it into a real movement. On Saturday, their day of global action, there will be at least 3,800 events and rallies and demonstrations in almost 170 countries. It’ll be one of the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history. People are rallying all over the place:
- in Kabul
- in Iraq
- in the coup-ridden capital of Honduras
- on the shores of the dwindling Dead Sea, Israeli activists will make a giant human 3 on their beach, Palestinians a huge 5 on their shore, and the Jordanians a 0 on theirs.
- across the U.S.—there will be at least a thousand actions, one of the best chances to make a loud cry for strengthening the climate bills on Capitol Hill. There’s one near you—here’s a link that will show you what’s going on in your neighborhood.
- in China, where there will be at least 300 rallies—this is something new for the Chinese people, to be part of a global environmental movement. And with the leading environmental groups, top Chinese websites, and famous universities on board, it’s got full support from top to bottom. Here’s the website up in Mandarin.
They’ve gotten plenty of coverage in the blogosphere, and in the foreign press:
But in the bigtime U.S. press? So far nothing much.
Maybe editors think it’s too complicated—that people can’t deal with that much science. But clearly they can—and as I pointed out last week, given new research like Tripati’s paper in Science they’re going to have to (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher — “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm”).
We’re not going to get back to 350 anytime soon, obviously, but it’s a good sign that people all over the world are calling for it. And a bad sign that our press, who have plenty of time to deal with the political realism of climate, seem to think that scientific realism is hopelessly idealistic. As Bill McKibben keeps saying, Republicans and Democrats need to negotiate, and Americans and Chinese—but at root, it’s a debate between human beings on the one hand and physics and chemistry on the other.
Take a look at the slideshow of stuff that’s already happened—this is a small taste of what the weekend will bring. It’s what a movement looks like, and it’s about time. We’ll see thousands more of these images on Saturday—the question is whether newspaper readers and tv viewers will see them too.
For the science behind 350, see “Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al.” Since the science is preliminary and it is not not yet politically possible to get to 450 ppm, let alone 350, my basic view is, let’s start working now toward stabilizing below 450 ppm. I think we will need ultimately to get back to 350, and the faster the better. But since it ain’t easy, I hope climate scientists will shed more light on how fast is really needed. Either way, this is what needs to be done technology-wise: “How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution (updated).” The difference between the two targets is that for 450 ppm, you need to do the 12-14 wedges in four decades. For 350 ppm, you (roughly) need 8 wedges in about two decades plus another 10 wedges over the next three decades (and then have the world go carbon negative as soon as possible after that), which requires a global WWII-style and WWII-scale strategy (see “An open letter to James Hansen on the real truth about stabilizing at 350 ppm“).
The great environmental writer and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, helped me research this post