350.org is an international campaign dedicated to the climate solutions that science and justice demand. 350 is named after the goal of reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from its current level of 390 parts per million to below 350 ppm, the safe upper limit according to leading scientists.
Environmental writer Bill McKibben and a team of seven friends from Middlebury College in Vermont launched 350.org in 2008. The year before, the same team had organized the Step It Up 2007 campaign in the United States, which culminated in over a day of action with 1,400 events in all 50 states. At each event, from the melting glaciers of Montana to the endangered reefs of Florida, citizens held a banner with the message: "Step It Up, Congress: Cut Carbon 80% by 2050!" Within a week, presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama signed on to the 80% by 2050 target for the first time. Here's 350.org Web Coordinator, Jon Warnow talking about the success of that campaign:
In 2008, the Step It Up team decided to take this model of uniting distributed actions online with a common message and see if could work at the global level. Around the same time, one of the world's most respected climate scientists, James Hansen, published a paper setting 350 ppm as the safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere. The abstract of the paper read that C02 must be reduced below 350 ppm in order to maintain a planet "similar to civilization developed and life on Earth is adapted." Bill McKibben quickly seized on 350 as "the most important number in the world" and within weeks after Hansen's paper our team launched 350.org.
With just seven people and an entire planet to organize, each member of our core team picked a continent and set about contacting organizations, friends, people found on Facebook and Google, and asked them to save the date of October 24, 2009 for a major international day of climate action to popularize the 350 ppm target. To kick off the campaign, we released this 90-second animation to try and explain the 350 number with no words (so that it could be understood in any language):
Our campaign quickly gained momentum. In December 2008, Al Gore endorsed the 350 ppm target and a few months later Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the International Panel on Climate Change, and influential economist Sir Nicholas Stern also signed on to to the target. Our staff grew to 35 campaigners scattered across the planet, from internet cafes in Burundi to apartments in New Delhi. As our October 24 International Day of Climate Action approached, hundreds of partner organizations signed on board and thousands of volunteers got to work organizing local events.
The result was truly spectacular. October 24 united over 5,200 events in more than 180 countries, what CNN later called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history." Foreign Policy magazine referred to it as "the largest coordinated global rally of any kind." The best way to fully appreciate the scope, diversity, and creativity of the day is through the nearly 20,000 event photos we received that weekend. You can see some of the highlights here or a watch a video of the day here:
350.org carried this momentum to the UN Climate Meetings in Copenhagen in December. At those talks, 350.org worked to support the 112 countries that endorsed the 350 ppm target. Those were mostly the most-vulnerable nations to climate change, the island states and African countries that new the devastating consequence of higher levels of C02. We helped mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of Copenahgen, organized thousands of candlelite vigils around the world with the TckTckTck campaign, and kept our supporters up to speed with Tweets and Facebook updates from the talks.
Copenhagen, of course, did not produce the fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty that so many were hoping for. And so, this year, our work continues.
In 2010, 350.org will continue to strengthen the growing international climate movement. You can find out more about our campaign activities by visiting the appropriate sections on our media page or contacting our spokespeople.