The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301,

New Report: Reducing Carbon Dioxide to 350 ppm Is Necessary to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

As Climate Talks Open in China, Report Offers Viable Route for Dramatic CO2 Cuts


Reducing carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million (ppm) in the Earth's atmosphere is a necessary, viable step toward preventing catastrophic effects from global climate change, according to a new report released today. "Not Just a Number: Achieving a CO2 Concentration of 350 ppm or Less to Avoid Catastrophic Climate Impacts" was prepared by the Center for Biological Diversity and to coincide with the international climate talks opening today in Tianjin, China.

"Climate change is happening much more quickly than predicted. Even seen in the most optimistic light, pledges made last year in Copenhagen would still lead to unacceptably dangerous levels of CO2 and set off a disastrous chain of events. We have to do better," said Matt Vespa, a Center attorney and one of the report's lead authors. "To preserve a planet resembling the one we rely on today, we must reduce atmospheric CO2 to less than 350 ppm. It's an ambitious goal, but also crucial and achievable."

Current CO2 levels are about 392 parts per million. Scientists predict that if changes aren't made soon, it will be impossible to avoid some of the worst effects of global warming, including rising ocean levels, more extreme weather events, water shortages, accelerated species loss and disrupted economies and food supplies.

In addition to emphasizing the necessity of reaching 350 ppm, today's report outlines several ways to reach that goal. All will require a peak in global carbon pollution in the very near future, followed by a rapid decline. "The longer we delay, the more difficult it will be to avoid the devastating impacts of climate change," said Shaye Wolf, the Center's climate science director and another lead author. "The good news is that we can do this. Existing technologies can phase out coal in the United States by 2030, a vital step in achieving 350."

The report identifies the safest path to 350 ppm as the one put forth by preeminent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and his colleagues. The 350-ppm-by-2100 plan can be achieved by reducing global greenhouse gas pollution to 42 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It also requires dramatic reductions in fossil fuel emissions; carbon sequestration; and an end to large-scale deforestation.

Today's talks in China precede November's UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, falling just before's Global Work Party to stop climate change Oct. 10.

"As UN talks resume, we have one clear message for delegates: The whole world is getting to work solving the climate challenge and showing the solutions that will help get us to 350 ppm," said May Boeve,'s partnerships director. "If we can get to work, so can our world leaders."

"Achieving 350 ppm is an ambitious, necessary and obtainable goal. The investment and sacrifice are small prices to pay to ensure a livable plant for future generations," added Vespa.

A link to the report can be found here.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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