October 24 Press Release

click to download this press advisory in .PDF

October 24, 2009

Jamie Henn

Cosabeth Bullock


 5,242 Simultaneous Events on Climate in 181 Countries

Citizens, scientists and world leaders in 181 countries will take to nearby streets, mountains, parks, and reefs today to demand strong action on climate change, in what will be the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.
5,242 rallies and creative demonstrations will take place, all of them centered on the number 350, to draw attention to 350 parts per million (ppm), which an overwhelming number of scientists now insist is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“We had no idea it we would get the overwhelming support, enthusiasm and engagement from all over the world that we’re seeing,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org which is coordinating the day’s events. “It seems far-fetched that you could get this many people to rally around a scientific data point, but the number just keeps climbing. It shows just how scared of global warming much of the planet really is, and how fed up at the inaction of our leaders.”
In major cities, tens of thousands of people will form giant 3s or 5s or 0s, in a “planet-scale game of Scrabble.” Smaller scale actions include climbers with banners high on the slopes of Mt. Everest and teams of divers with signs on the Great Barrier Reef or the coral off the coast of Oman in the Persian Gulf. Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian campaigners are coordinating a joint action along the shores of the Dead Sea. There will be more than 1,800 actions across the U.S., as well as 300 in China, 200 in Africa and more than 150 in India.
“People in almost all the nations of the earth are involved,” said 350 messenger Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “It's the same kind of coalition that helped make the word "apartheid" known around the world.”
350 ppm originally came from a NASA research team headed by American climate scientist James Hansen, which surveyed both real-time climate observations and emerging paleo-climatic data in January of 2008. Their peer-reviewed article concluded that above 350ppm co2 the earth’s atmosphere couldn’t support “a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”
“It’s a very tough number,” says McKibben, who wrote the first book on climate change for a general audience in 1989. “We’re already well past it—the atmosphere holds 390 ppm today, which is why the Arctic is melting and the ocean steadily acidifying. To get back to the safe level we need a very rapid halt to the use of coal, gas and oil so that forests and oceans can absorb some of that carbon.”
350.org uses novel approaches to political organizing, combining the web and SMS networks, distributing lightweight Flip video cameras, and training young people in “climate camps” on multiple continents. On Saturday, event organizers will be filming and photographing their actions and uploading them immediately to the group’s website and Flicker account. Organizers will display hundreds of them on the giant advertising screens of Times Square in New York before hand-delivering shots to UN delegations on Monday.
Following the Global Wake Up Call on September 21, 350.org's International Day of Climate Action is the second key moment in the Tck Tck Tck campaign on the road to the next UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen this December. Tck Tck Tck is an unprecedented global alliance of civil society organizations, trade unions, faith groups, and millions of individuals all calling for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate change agreement. The Day of Action is a part of an effort to build the world's biggest mandate for bold climate action.
“Sometimes politicians say that ordinary citizens just don’t worry that much about global warming,” said McKibben. “I think we’ve proven—around the world—that there’s no issue they care more about.”
Founded by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, 350.org is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis—the solutions that science and justice demand. Their mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.
350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and 92 national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. Scientists have concluded that we are already above the safe zone at our current 390ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.
For more information, including hi-res photos and video for free use, please visit the 350.org Media Room: www.350.org/media.