Magazine article Tikkun

Bill McKibben on the One Crucial Number: 350

Magazine article Tikkun

Bill McKibben on the One Crucial Number: 350

Article excerpt

IT'S A PLEASURE- A DEEP COMFORT- TO HAVE A PRESIDENT WHO IS SMARTER THAN MOST OF THE REST OF us, a president who will be able to deal with complexity. But I have to tell you that in one sense, there's never been a president who's taken office with a simpler job. I can knock it down to a single number- a number that will set the boundaries for many ofthe major decisions you must make in what is clearly a perilous time.

That number is 350, and a year ago no one knew it Shaken by the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice and spurred by mounds of new paleo-climatic data, our leading climatologist at that time, James Hansen at NASA (now one of your employees!), calculated that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was the absolute maximum "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." Which, one assumes, you would.

If so, you have your work cut out for you. Because we're already past that number. TWo centuries ofburning coal and gas and oil have filled the atmosphere with 387 parts per million of carbon dioxide- that's why the Arctic is melting. It's why we're seeing huge increases in storms, why mosquitoes are spreading across Asia and South America, why Greenland is beginning to disintegrate. Forget say, terrorismclimate change is the one civilization-shaking challenge we face.

The policy implications are large. Essentially, we must get off fossil fuel very, very soon- Hansen said that if humans are still burning coal by 2030, we'll never get back to 350 because we'll have triggered so many feedback loops. That's the biggest job humans have ever undertaken, probably by an order of magnitude: it means every other decision will need to be made in its light Economy cratering? The way out must be through a radical attempt to create green jobs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.