This week, many South Africans, like millions of other climate conscious citizens around the world, are preparing for the Global Day of Action on Saturday the 24th.  The day, which is focused on citizen action and engagement, has been organised by 350.org, an advocacy organisation promoting global action to tackle climate change.

Many parts of South Africa are feeling the increasing impacts of climate change such as shifting vegetation zones, erratic rainfall and seasonal temperature anomalies, particularly evident in arid areas.

The aim of global action day is to engage citizens in the science of climate change, hence the reference to 350 which is used as the recommended baseline with regards to carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.  Figures for 2009 indicate that levels are already at 390ppm, hence the urgency in curbing emissions growth and aiming for stabilisation at 350ppm.  Although there is much debate within the worlds elite climate modellers’ about correct targets and the use of temperature or concentration, 350.org have used the 350 figure as their campaign theme.  Bill McKibben, organiser of the 350 group is cognisant of the complexity in the climate system dynamics and says the 350 figure gives campaigners a metric to work with.  The 350 initiative has big name support with endorsement from Al Gore, Sir Nicholas Stern and Rajendra Pachuari, it is therefore an effective viaduct between local campaigns and their influence on political action.

The 350 figure will form the centre of many of the global actions planned for the 24th of October.  South Africans will be engaging in a variety of demonstrations including a meeting at Johannesburg’s Emmerentia dam, where people are encouraged to dress at superheroes to represent the need to save the planet.  At Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town’s surf mecca, giant blocks of ice in the shape of a 350 will be melted and a freeze frame movie made. Cape Town’s largest township, Khayelitsha, located in the Cape Flats region, will be holding a ‘blue under the sea event’ where blue clothing will signify the areas vulnerability to flooding and predicted sea level rise. Activities will also be taking place on the beach front in Durban where sand, art and music will be the focus to inspire action on climate. In addition an open letter will be circulated, lobbying President Jacob Zuma to attend the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

The global day of action, aimed at lobbying the global political agenda is particularly timely and prudent. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently told Newsweek he felt the prospects of states agreeing to anything at Copenhagen was ‘looking worse and worse’.  Consequently the more national citizens can engage with their political leadership the more momentum will grow before Copenhagen. As Gordon Brown, at the recent Major Economics Forum in London reiterated, there is a need to break the leadership ‘impasse’ as there was no ‘Plan B’ in the absence of united firm agreement at Copenhagen.

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