Tampa takes part in International Day of Climate Action

This past Saturday marked the International Day of Climate Action, a global call for an active, scientifically-minded approach to climate change. With 4,000 simultaneous demonstrations taking place in over 180 countries, it was the most widespread day of environmental action in history.

Activists hope a opportunity for improvement is on the horizon. In early December, President Obama and other foreign leaders will decide on a new climate treaty at the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen. One of the primary topics of discussion: carbon emissions. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere recently topped 390 parts per million (ppm), but most scientists believe that safe levels should not exceed 350 ppm. If levels are maintained or continue to rise, climate change will become a more severe problem. 89 countries have already proclaimed their support for the 350 target.

350.org, an international climate campaign, would like to see global carbon emissions reduced 80% by 2050. This target would allow atmospheric carbon levels to fall below 350 ppm once again. The organization was founded by U.S. author Bill McKibben, who published one of the first books on global warming for the general public. 350.org coordinated the International Day of Climate Action in order to send a cohesive message to world leaders about the need to reduce carbon emissions and stop global temperature increases.

On Saturday morning, a group of about 40 people gathered along Bayshore Boulevard to add their voices to the call for climate action. The event, dubbed the “Tampa Bay 350 Action Rally,” was sponsored by Repower America, Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE), and Greenpeace. With the Big Bend Power Station as a backdrop, the rally featured speeches by various environmental activists as well as a brief demonstration.

Kate Melges, Greenpeace Lead Activist for the Bay area, organized the event and believes that politics threaten to undermine viable solutions to the climate crisis. She said we need a clean energy policy backed by science, not oil companies and lobbyists. Melges also thinks that it’s important for President Obama to take a leading role at the UN Climate Change Conference in December: “It is time for him to be a leader and stand up to the challenge of climate change.”

Sommer Geck, a Greenpeace Campus Coordinator at the University of South Florida, said that the current moment is a peak time for political action regarding climate change. She pointed out a disparity between public and scientific perspectives on global warming: “Less than 1% of scientists believe that global warming isn’t caused by humans. Yet nearly 60% of the population thinks that.” Geck also warned, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train… If you’re not working against climate change, you’re helping it.”

Adrian Brunori, a representative for Repower America, pointed out that climate change affects certain parts of the planet differently, saying, “The 350 target caps global temperature rise at 3 degrees. The Earth distributes that unevenly. At the equator, the temperature will rise by ½ a degree whereas the poles will see a 12 degree increase.”

Several attendees at the Tampa Bay 350 Action Rally took a faith-based approach to climate change. Reverend Warren Clark of Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE) believes that environmental stewardship is a moral responsibility which will impact the well-being of future generations. Clark gave a short demonstration about sea-level rise as it relates to global warming. He explained the rationale behind the rally’s location: “We chose this place because, whenever there is a storm in Tampa, this is where Bayshore floods.”

The Tampa Bay 350 Action Rally concluded with photographs and a march down Bayshore. Many attendees carried signs with slogans such as “Make Our Energy Clean” and “Power Past Coal.”

Images and information concerning the International Day of Climate Action are available at www.350.org.

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