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  Are there any carbon-cutting bills currently being discussed in Congress?     |     Why not just have a march on Washington?     |     Will Congress listen?     |     How big should my rally be?     |     What if I can't make it to a rally?     |     Why are we asking for 80% carbon cuts by 2050?     |     How can we cut carbon 80% by 2050?  

Why are we asking for 80% carbon cuts by 2050?

Our request of Congress is simple: that they put America on a course to cut carbon emissions 80% by the middle of the century.

This sounds like a lot-but in fact, it's less than a two percent reduction a year. It won't be easy: it will take commitment and resources to switch from fossil fuels to new sources of energy. But it needs to be done: the latest science tells us that temperatures are increasing faster than expected, and the results are showing up in melting ice caps, intensifying storms, and rising sea levels. America's foremost climatologist, NASA scientist James Hansen, has said that we have just a few years to start reducing carbon emissions, and he's endorsed our goal of 80% by 2050. That won't prevent global warming-it's already too late for that-but it may be enough to stave off the most catastrophic effects.

While few experts have said explicitly "we need to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050," we're sticking to this message. Here's why: Scientists have resisted in nearly every case prescribing policy because they don't want to enter the political realm. That's why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others won't suggest policy, but rather leave it up to legislators to do the dirty work. That said, Jim Hansen, the Stern Report, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a number of European countries, the State of California and others (including the new USCAP business-environmental partnership) have either suggested or explicitly referred to 80% carbon cuts by 2050 as a solution commensurate to the scale of the problem.

And it's possible. The cost of renewable energy is falling fast. New conservation technologies, like hybrid cars, are becoming more available. Many Americans are starting to switch already, but only leadership from Washington can allow this transformation to happen fast enough. And if we begin to get our house in order, then we can play some role in helping China and India steer away from cataclysm as well.

There are no guarantees we'll succeed. But if we act ambitiously, we have reason to hope.