Target 300 was set up in mid 2008 by Adrian Whitehead after reading the "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" paper by James Hansen. Adrian had been concerned with the lack of meaningful stabilisation goals and targets being promoted by the environment movement, politicians and modeled by IPCC. Almost without exception these were significantly above todays levels, flying in the face of common sense that said if todays levels were already causing dangerous impacts, the pass of tipping points, such as the melting of the north pole, why would we think about going higher.
Common sense suggested that if we want a stable climate, we should return to CO2 levels that existed pre the industrial revolution, namely 280 ppm CO2. Hansen's paper confirmed this common sense approach using science and made it clear that according to his research the safe level of CO2 needed to sustain a series of climate stabilising systems critical in maintaining a normal temperature range, was most likely between 300-350 ppm CO2 and in the case of the melting of the North Pole Summer ice, 300-325 ppm CO2.
This meant the "safe" level of CO2 lay somewhere in the range of 300-325 ppm in oder to maintain the North Pole Summer ice. Given that without the North Pole Summer ice, it would highly unlikely to be able to reduce global temperatures and create a stable climate system, it means we must choose a target to ensure the North Pole Summer ice is reestablished, and thus the 300 ppm CO2 or below figure was chosen to ensure a safe climate would be reached.
The website was developed and promotion of the 300 ppm target began in Australia. The campaign achieved rapid success in Australia within the first year, with the majority of the grassoot and some mainstream climate and environmental organisations adopting 300 ppm CO2 or below as their long term CO2 stabilisation target.
The campaign is now focusing on getting this message out internationally.
300 and 350
Around the same time as Adrian Whitehead, an American activist, Bill McKibbon has also read Hansen paper. Bill seemed to miss read it, and ingnored the safe climate target of 300-325 ppm CO2, instead fixating on what Hansen called an "initial target" of 350 ppm CO2. Campaigning for an interim target is a great idea, however Bill McKibbon and the 350.org campaign decided to call their target the "safe" target for the climate.
Adrian was contacted by a member of the 350 campaign he had met in Bali and asked to be involved in the 350.org campaign. He pointed out the issues with how the 350.org campaign was framing the 350ppm target and along with Philip Sutton from the Green Leap Strategic Institute sent a series of emails in an effort of convince 350.org they were misrepresenting the 350 ppm CO2 target as safe. Unfortunately Adrian and Philip failed and the concept of 350 ppm CO2 was sold around the world as a safe target.
The 350.org campaign made a classic mistake repeated again and again by environmentalists around the would, which is fail to ask for what is actually needed and thus reduce their demands even before the campaign has started or negotiations have begun. This is opposite to how virtually everybody else plays the polical game, and instead most other poltical players ask for uch more than they want or need and negotiate back down to an accepted position.
Today, in late 2009, the focus of the 350.org is slowly changing away from calling 350 ppm Co2 "safe". They have removed the word "safe" from some of their graphics and promotion material and are changing parts of their message to now say the 350 target relates to 350 ppm CO2 -e (equivalent see: Useful Climate Definitions for an explanation) not ppm CO2 straight. However around the would people are still calling 350 ppm CO2 a "safe" target because of the misinformation of Bill MCKibbon and 350.org.
The simple solution for 350.org would be to re focus their 350.org campaign, from trying to establish 350 ppm CO2 as the "safe" target, to establishing 350ppm CO2 as the first initial target to be achieved, on the way to a safe level of greenhouse gases.
For a detailed analysis of the 350.org target and campaign see our webpage on this issue.
The Target 300 campaign is part of a group of campaigns run or initiated by Adrian Whitehead, in an effort to build and effective response to climate change.
His current campaigns include:
Adrian Whitehead's BioClick here if you would like to read Adrian Whitehead's Bio.
300 ppm CO2 or below is the stabilisation target for a safe climate.