From Bill McKibben:
If you look on the front page of the International Herald Tribune, they list all the places it’s for sale–which pretty much covers the whole urban planet. Ditto for the Financial Times. And of course the New York Times is the paper of record for the North American continent. So it was magnificent this morning (or maybe magnifico, since I was in Italy) to open them and find a full-page ad shouting the most important number in the world. The 350 is in the largest type that newspapers use–no one who reads their paper this morning will be able to miss it. And the list of signatories is incredibly impressive. It feels like the gunshot that marks the start of a race!
All credit and thanks go to Bo Ekman and Jim Wine of the Tallberg Foundation and their colleagues. They took the 350 number and did what we hope everyone on earth will do: use whatever assets they have to spread the word. Some will have the money and connections to take out huge newspaper ads–others will use whatever medium they have close to hand (like the Massachusetts church that rang its bells 350 times yesterday and got big local press coverage–see blog post below). At any rate, the elite readers who make up the audience for these newspapers have a new number to chew on this morning. The message is getting out!
It was 20 years ago today that Jim Hansen first warned us about the threat of global warming. Sure, some atmospheric scientists had been worried previously–there’d been reports and conferences. But on June 23, 1988 Dr. Hansen testified before the House of Representatives that this was not some distant threat but a new reality. Amidst the worst summer heat wave in U.S. history, he was mobbed by reporters as he left the chamber and he said it was “time to stop waffling” and say that global warming was underway.
I remember perfectly the front page of the New York Times the next day, where the story was at the top of the page. And I remember the reaction from many other scientists–Hansen had spoken too loosely, not obeyed all the customs of the scientific method. But he was right then–his boldness is what launched the entire debate. And he is right today, when he tells us that 20 years of subsequent research by tens of thousands of scientists has given us the most important number on earth: 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, the upper limit for a safe atmosphere and a prosperous world.
We should remember Hansen’s scientific ability and be thankful for his brain–but we also need to remember his enormous courage, and act however we can in the same bold spirit!