It seems that the number 350, a rather boring looking number, may be even more important than Pi and Phi. It probably isn’t more important in the universe than the Hubble Constant and other important universal constants. However, to life evolved for the current climate range on Earth, 350 may just turn out even more important than all the rest, at least for our island Earth.
Because, 350 parts per million is the number below which we must stabilize the greenhouse gases on the planet in terms of the equivalent quantity of carbon dioxide. Any more and we will disrupt the ecosystem on which humanity and many other organisms depend for our very lives.
The problems are, at least:
1) We’re already above that number. (Current consensus is about 385 ppm, though at least one scientist puts our current number at over 450 ppm.)
2) Even Kyoto and the goals of other nations are way above 350 ppm.
3) Our best efforts to date, even with the best of intentions, have done nothing whatsoever to actually reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
4) Our planet’s ecology will not care one iota for our efforts. It being an inanimate system will care only for results. This was pointed out to me at a lecture by Paul R Ehrlich, coauthor of The Dominant Animal.
Here’s an excellent article from Mother Jones detailing the reason 350 is the most important number and what must be done. It is also the impetus for this blog post.
When you’re done with that, you will likely want to do something. Here’s an organization designed to get the word (or more accurately, the number) out to the public and hopefully influence politicians to take real and decisive action.
Where the 350 number comes from:
Climate Target Not Radical Enough — Popular press article paraphrasing the study.
Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? — The peer reviewed article, a 15 page PDF.
Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? (Supporting Data) — This is the supporting data to the peer reviewed article, a 21 page PDF.
An article with a claim that the current number is actually over 450: