As the newest organization (founded in 2008) on our list of top-climate change nonprofits in the Bay Area, 350.org comes in at #5! Have you heard of it yet?
In order to tell you a little bit more about each of these top nonprofits, we thought we’d share a story about the organization so you can learn more. For example, do you know the founding story of this start-up? And what’s the significance of “350” anyway?
350.org was started by environmental writer Bill McKibben and a team of seven friends from Middlebury College in Vermont. It originated from the Step It Up 2007 campaign, which culminated in over a day of action with 1,400 events in all 50 states, which advocated to cut carbon 80% by 2050. Within a week, presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama signed on to the 80% by 2050 target for the first time.
In 2008, the Step It Up team decided to take this model of uniting distributed actions online with a common message and see if could work at the global level. Around the same time, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, James Hansen, published a paper setting 350 ppm as the safe upper limit of CO2 in the atmosphere. The abstract of the paper read that C02 must be reduced below 350 ppm in order to maintain a planet “similar to civilization developed and life on Earth is adapted.” Bill McKibben quickly seized on 350 as “the most important number in the world” and within weeks after Hansen’s paper their team launched 350.org.
Their campaign quickly gained momentum. In December 2008, Al Gore endorsed the 350 ppm target and a few months later Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the International Panel on Climate Change, and influential economist Sir Nicholas Stern also signed on to the target. Their staff grew to 35 campaigners scattered across the planet, from internet cafes in Burundi to apartments in New Delhi. As their October 24 International Day of Climate Action approached, hundreds of partner organizations signed on board and thousands of volunteers got to work organizing local events. The result was truly spectacular. October 24 united over 5,200 events in more than 180 countries, what CNN later called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Foreign Policy magazine referred to it as “the largest coordinated global rally of any kind.”
350.org carried this momentum to the UN Climate Meetings in Copenhagen in December 2009. At those talks, 350.org worked to support the 112 countries that endorsed the 350 ppm target. Those were mostly the most-vulnerable nations to climate change, the island states and African countries that new the devastating consequence of higher levels of C02. They helped mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of Copenahgen, organized thousands of candlelite vigils around the world with the TckTckTck campaign, and kept their supporters up to speed with Tweets and Facebook updates from the talks. Copenhagen, of course, did not produce the fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty that so many were hoping for. And so, this year, their work continues.
(Learn more at: http://www.350.org/media/about350)
Experts had lots to say about what makes 350.org so successful and unique. Experts said 350.org has raised awareness on climate change, and motivated individuals to take collective action through its grassroots, creative approach. It had impressive visibility with their 350 campaign in the months and weeks leading up to Copenhagen. In addition, 350.org is the forefront of articulating a science-based bottom line for climate policy. They are very clear in emphasizing that we have to get to an atmospheric concentration of no more than 350 ppm CO2. To view more expert comments go here.