Local environmental group 350 Madison hired its first executive director to help further the organization’s advocacy for renewable energy.

John Greenler will assume the position Oct. 1, according to a press release for 350 Madison.

Greenler previously worked with education and advocacy regarding climate science at several organizations and programs, such as the Wisconsin Energy Institute and Energy Analysis and Policy Program at the University of Wisconsin. He also earned a Ph.D. in plant biology from UW.

350 Madison President of the Board of Directors Gail Nordheim said in a press release Sept. 20 that Greenler’s knowledge on the climate crisis and organizational experience will help expand the movement to the state level.

“John [Greenler] will provide strong executive leadership that will allow 350 Madison to amplify its impact at this critically important time,” Nordheim said.

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350 Madison works with UW students through paid internship programs where students can organize campaigns and fundraisers or do administrative work.

The group also welcomes students who may not be able to do internships by providing volunteer opportunities.

Nordheim said Greenler’s experience working with UW will help 350 Madison continue to build relationships with UW students through these programs.

“John Greenler … worked at [UW] for many years, so he’s quite familiar with the university and I think he should be able to really move that ahead,” Nordheim said.

350 Madison is a chapter of the international organization 350. The organization was named after 350 parts per million, the safe concentration level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Local climate activists founded 350 Madison in 2012 and have since worked to raise awareness about climate change. Over the last nine years, the group has worked with the City of Madison to develop policies that reduce the use of fossil fuels.

It will be nearly impossible to limit the global warming level to 1.5 degrees or even two degrees Celsius without immediate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Once the warming exceeds two degrees, it is predicted to damage human agriculture and health.

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Nordheim encouraged local communities to take proactive steps in an effort to prevent global warming.

Wisconsin has not been “particularly progressive” compared to other states when it comes to climate policy, Nordheim said.

“We have to transition very rapidly to renewable energy and … cut back tremendously on our fossil fuel use and stop extracting new fossil fuels, and if we don’t, there will be a climate catastrophe,” Nordheim said.