Urgency needed as deadline looms
On Nov. 7, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, launched the "Do The Math" Tour in Seattle. Covering 20 cities in 20 days, the tour's presentation was based on the findings of the Meinshausen study, which McKibben covered in the July 19 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. In it, he cited three critical numbers: 2 degrees Celsius allowable temperature rise; 565 gigatons of carbon we can "afford" to emit; and 2795 gigatons of carbon in proven fossil fuel reserves.
Clearly, the fossil fuel industries must be persuaded (or compelled) to leave as much as 80 percent of their proven reserves in the ground. A tall order, indeed.
On Sunday, a historic event took place in Washington D.C. The largest gathering of environmental activists ever assembled rallied to impress upon President Obama the importance of stopping the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline. Estimates range from 35,000 to 50,000 participants representing 160 different organizations with leadership from 350.org, the Sierra Club and the Hip Hop Caucus. There were Solidarity Rallies across the country, including Seattle and Olympia, and even a small one in Everett.
Also of importance was the arrest of 48 environmental, civil rights and community leaders in front of the White House while calling for President Obama to deny the pipeline and address climate change. Of particular significance among the 48 were Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and President of the Board, Allison Chin, who took part in the first act of non-violent direct action ever sanctioned by the Sierra Club in its 120 year history.
Climate change is a complex issue, fraught with uncertainty and playing out on a timeline that is beyond the scope of many. But the Meinshausen study calls us to consider the possibility of a deadline that could be only 11 years away. It is time to get serious about addressing greenhouse gas emissions.