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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global warming activists formed a "human postcard" on Capitol Hill, dove to a coral reef off Key West and fanned out across Manhattan's financial district on Saturday to call for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change.
More than 1,400 events in all 50 states were part of the Step It Up campaign, all with the aim of urging the U.S. Congress to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
As a prelude to U.S. Earth Day on April 22, the day of climate action drew hundreds of people to Capitol Hill, where they formed the slogan "80 percent by 2050" and were photographed from above for a human postcard to be sent to members of Congress.
In New York City, about 1,200 people gathered at the tip of Manhattan for a rally and then spread out in a line across the city's low-lying financial district.
The so-called Sea of People demonstration, in which many participants wore blue and brought such props as scuba equipment and beach balls, was meant to delineate the part of the city that would be submerged if half of the Greenland ice sheet melted, said organizer Ben Jervey.
"I've been concerned with climate issues for a long time and the approach of this action -- distributed activism around the country ... to send a message directly to senators and representatives that we need to cut carbon emissions -- it's a much better approach to citizen action," Jervey said in a telephone interview.
In Florida, scuba divers ventured to Sand Key Reef, one of the world's most endangered living coral barrier reefs. In photographs posted on the campaign's Web site, stepitup2007.org, the divers were shown carrying signs reading "Step it up, Congress! 80% by 2050" and "It's getting hot down here!!"
Environmentalist Bill McKibben, author of the 1989 book on global warming, "The End of Nature," and others at Middlebury College in Vermont came up with the grass-roots strategy.
In a telephone interview after he addressed the New York City event, McKibben said he looked forward to further action.
"Now the real battle is to see if Congress is ever going to do anything about climate change. They've literally done nothing for 20 years," he said. "They need to act pretty ambitiously if they're going to have any hope of dealing with the science of the situation."
McKibben said he was scheduled to testify on Tuesday before a congressional panel about climate change and Saturday's events.
The United States is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by China.
Other demonstrations included a ski trip by 13 activists and two dogs to the snow-covered summit of Whiteface Mountain in New York state's Adirondack range.
"A lot of people enjoy skiing and snowshoeing in the winter in the Adirondacks, and these are activities that are threatened by global warming," said Phil Brown, editor of Adirondack Explorer magazine, who participated.
In Madison, Wisconsin, about 200 people marched from the University of Wisconsin campus to the state capitol. They carried signs reading "Clean air not polluted power" and "Act now -- Go green" while chanting "two, four, six, eight, cut the carbon we can't wait."
Also planned were a hike to the "Hollywood" sign overlooking Los Angeles and a four-day trip by ski mountaineers that was to include a descent of the shrinking Dinwoody Glacier in Wyoming.
Additional reporting by Matt Dolbey in Madison, Wisconsin