by Jeremy Gragert
In 2013 scientists were able to confirm that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide—a potent greenhouse gas—had reached 400 parts per million (ppm). Retired NASA climate scientist James Hanson warned of this measure of our global impact from fossil fuel addiction in testimony before Congress back in 1988. That year we were rocketing past 350 ppm, a number he claims we need to return to in order to have a stable climate for future generations.
This number, this goal of 350 ppm, is the basis for a grassroots organization called 350.org, now leading the global climate justice movement. 350.org is casting fossil fuel companies as a rogue industry because they are intent upon extracting oil, gas, tar sands, and coal reserves in increasingly extreme ways. They are digging deeper under the artic, the mountains, the ocean, the forests, and farmer’s fields in every corner of our planet no matter the cost to communities or the environment. 350.org’s Bill McKibben has called for the end of this reckless extraction, because if even half of the proven fossil fuel reserves were burned it would be game over for the climate. 400… 450… 500… 550 ppm, no one truly knows how extreme and unpredictable the weather would become or how high the ocean would rise. More and more, people don’t want to find out.
Ordinary people would rather stop this madness and stand against the fossil fuel industry and stand up for a stable climate. A local 350 Eau Claire group has yet to emerge, but for years, efforts by Eau Claire Climate Action Now (CAN) (https://www.facebook.com/EauClaireClimateActionNowcan) have hosted local 350.org events and actions coordinated nationally and internationally. With the Chippewa Valley Group of the Sierra Club and so many students and faculty active at UW–Eau Claire, perhaps it is time for 350 Eau Claire. The most active groups in Wisconsin so far: 350 Madison, 350 Milwaukee, and 350 Stevens Point.
Speaking of action on climate change, one of the most promising and positive ways that local citizens have been active is through Citizens Climate Lobby (www.citizensclimatelobby.org). The CCL chapter in Eau Claire has sent members to Washington D.C. for two years. CCL is working nationally to build political will among members of the U.S. Congress, including Rep. Ron Kind, to pass national carbon fee and dividend legislation that would require companies to pay the true cost to society of the carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels extracted within, or imported into, the United States.
By joining the work of 350.org, CAN, or CCL, we as citizens can do our part to end the madness of extreme energy, put a price on carbon dioxide emissions, and build a clean, renewable energy future. To join these efforts or learn more, contact Jeremy Gragert, Eau Claire Climate Action Now (CAN): firstname.lastname@example.org.