Citizen climate lobby unites to lower levels of CO2

More than 60 people showed up at Bayview Corner last October to spell out “350,” considered to be the highest level of atmospheric CO2 that can be tolerated without effect by humans. - Photo courtesy of Jim Hyde
More than 60 people showed up at Bayview Corner last October to spell out “350,” considered to be the highest level of atmospheric CO2 that can be tolerated without effect by humans.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Jim Hyde

Jim Hyde of Langley wants to get excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and keep it out, before it’s too late.

“If we don’t get the count down,” he said, “there will be huge and horrible ramifications.”

“There are some things that are reversible, and other things that aren’t,” Hyde continued. “We’re focused on trying to prevent the biggest catastrophes.”

Hyde, an Internet consultant and small-scale farmer, and Nick Tillotson, a Freeland landscaper, have formed a Whidbey Island chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots effort to combat what it sees as a desperate climate situation.

The group’s goal is to push for international measures that will bring atmospheric CO2 levels to between 280 and 350 parts per million.

The first number is the level recorded at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The second is considered by many scientists to be the highest level that the world’s population can tolerate without negative effect.

“We’re now at 385 ppm and rising,” Hyde said. “That’s worldwide, including Whidbey Island.”

It’s too late to stop many aspects of global climate change, he said, such as severe droughts in Australia, parts of Africa and the southwestern United States.

But sustained action now might help slow glacial melting, as well as the melting of the Arctic tundra permafrost in Alaska, Hyde said.

He said that if Greenland’s ice cap continues to melt at its current rate, sea levels will rise three to four feet by the end of the century, spelling disaster for millions of coastal residents around the world.

And if the tundra’s permafrost continues to dissipate, huge amounts of methane gas will be released into the atmosphere, dangerously accelerating the rate of global warming, he added.

Citizens Climate Lobby is committed to grassroots action. It was founded and continues to be financed by Marshall Saunders, a wealthy Coronado, Calif. resident who began his philanthropy by providing small loans in developing countries and who now works on environmental issues with former Vice President Al Gore.

The lobby’s goal is to push for a plan to reduce carbon emissions in the wake of the failure to do so at December’s conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, and by the earlier Kyoto climate treaty, which the U.S. quit during the Bush Administration.

The group also promotes education about the issues, Hyde said.

“Polls show less than half the people in the U.S. believe the climate crisis exists, and that it’s caused by people,” he said.

He also said the group hopes to counteract “huge and well-funded” lobbying campaign by railroads, coal and petroleum companies and other interests opposed to climate-control legislation.

“There’s a need for lobbying of our own to get the ear of the politicians,” Hyde said.

He said Citizens Climate Lobby promotes and coordinates at least one event per month to work for change.

These events often include activities such as a letter-writing campaign, phone calls, visits to legislators or press releases, he said.

Hyde said the push for a local chapter of the group grew out of last fall’s international demonstration by the environmental organization People in thousands of locations in 200 countries participated in the one-day event on Oct. 24.

Locally, about 60 people came to Bayview Corner to hear about the issues, and to show their support by forming the numbers “350” for a photograph.

Hyde said the success of the Bayview event, which he helped to organize, convinced him and others to continue the fight by affiliating with Citizens Climate Lobby.

“We liked what they had to say,” he said.

Hyde has lived on a 25-acre farm between Bayview and Langley for nearly six years, during which he and his wife, Mary Jane Miller, have become increasingly interested in sustainability and social justice.

“Things have been bringing me close to the earth for a long time,” he said. “Now I’m trying to reach out to the world.”

He said the local group has eight core members and a large mailing list of people who have expressed interest.

The local chapter will hold its first monthly event next week, a training session for members conducted by the national group’s director, Mark Reynolds of San Diego, Calif.

The session will be 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, at Ashingdon Manor, 5023 Langley Road. For information, call 221-2334.

Hyde said he has another reason for plunging neck-deep into the climate debate.

“It’s up to me to try to create a world my grandkids can thrive in,” he said. “If I didn’t take action on this, it would be irresponsible.”

For more information about Whidbey Citizens Climate Lobby, contact Hyde at 321-4747, or e-mail

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