For the last several years, the world community has been meandering forward on a common goal for reducing the threat of global warming. The idea is that if we could avoid doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, relative to preindustrial levels, we would avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
What if that goal is wrong?
That's the substance behind the message of a new advertising campaign that asks people to get familiar with the number 350.
That's 350 ppm, or parts per million. It's the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere circa 1988. We're above 350 now, and still pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates, as we burn fossil fuels like coal and oil.
The number 450 is the current goal. At 450 ppm, the atmosphere will be holding twice as much carbon as before the industrial revolution. Some scientists notably, NASA's James Hansen and advocates notably, Bill McKibben are arguing that 350 is the target we should be aiming for, based on the latest research.
We should get to know 350 because it will be the truer measure of success in the fight to avert a "climate crisis," as another prominent advocate, Al Gore, describes it. Whatever methods are articulated to reduce pollution that causes global warming, they have to aim for the right goal.
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