This op-ed appeared in the Boston Globe today:

Mr. Obama, be tough on climate change

By Bill McKibben

October 23, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA will appear at MIT this morning to talk about climate change and energy – and chances are he’ll try pretty much to use the same tactic he has used in the health care debate, working with Congress to pass something modest. It’s the sensible and straightforward approach, but in this case good politics may be bad science.   

That’s because global warming is different from almost every other problem we face. The negotiation that really counts is not between Republicans and Democrats or industry and the greens, or even between the United States and China. The real bargaining is happening between human beings and physics and chemistry, and that’s a tough negotiation.

Physics and chemistry have already announced their bottom line. In the last two years a slew of research has shown that the most carbon we can safely have in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million – indeed, a NASA team said that above that figure we can’t have “a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed or to which life on earth is adapted.’’

We’re already well past the 350 figure, at 390 parts per million, which is why Arctic sea ice is melting, glaciers thawing, and the ocean turning steadily more acidic. To meet the 350 goal will mean a far more aggressive approach than the one Obama and Congress have so far taken (the bill making its way through Congress explicitly aims for a world with 450 parts per million carbon).

The president may think he lacks the public backing to go for stronger measures. But there are signs of a worldwide climate movement finally emerging. Tomorrow, citizens and scientists will take part in more than 4,500 demonstrations in 170 countries around the world – all designed to drive that 350 number deep into the public debate.

click here to read the rest of this op-ed in the Boston Globe