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Climate Clock Goes Live In New York City

A climate clock showing the number of years before global heating hits 1.5 degrees Celsius is now on display in Union Square in New York City.

We often hear scientists say we have to reduce the level of carbon dioxide and methane in the Earth’s atmosphere soon, but how soon is soon? If you are a fossil fuel executive, it is immediately after the last molecule of oil or gas has been extracted and burned — or turned into plastic. If you are Greta Thunberg, it is tomorrow or next week at the latest. Now, artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan together with a team of makers and scientists have reprogrammed the Metronome clock that hangs on the side of a building in Union Square, New York City, to show precisely how many years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds remain before the world goes to Hell in a hand basket because of an overheated environment.

The Metronome usually shows the hours, minutes and seconds between midnight yesterday and midnight today. The revised display went live at the beginning of Climate Week in New York City and will remain on display through September 27. The “deadline” Boyd and Golan chose is based on calculations from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change as of the end of 2017.

The scientists at Mercator say, “The atmosphere can absorb, calculated from the end of 2017, no more than 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide if we are to stay below the 1.5° C threshold. However, since around 42  gigatons of carbon dioxide are emitted globally every year — the equivalent of 1332 tons per second — this budget is expected to be used up in just over nine years. The budget for staying below the 2° C threshold of approximately 1170 gigatons will be exhausted in about 26 years. The concept of the carbon budget is based on a nearly linear relationship between the cumulative emissions and the temperature rise.”

It is largely understood in the scientific community — but not in the political sphere — that 1.5 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels will have devastating effects in terms of sea level rise, more powerful storms, and harsher droughts. A 2 degree increase will have even more catastrophic consequences. Yesterday, Greta Thunberg tweeted about the ravages to the environment caused by climate criminals just in her lifetime. The statistics she cites are shocking.

Andrew Boyd tells, “The clock is a way to speak science to power. The clock is telling us we must reduce our emissions as much as we can as fast as we can. The technology is there. We can do this and, in the process, create a healthier, more just world for all of us. Our planet has a deadline. But we can turn it into a lifeline.” For more information about the Climate Clock project, please watch the video below.


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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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