We know that if we don’t take drastic measures to combat global warming, we will face irreversible and distractious impacts in the future. Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, two climate activists, show us just exactly how soon we can expect those impacts through their recent installation of the Climate Clock – a clock broadcasting the exact amount of time we have to curb greenhouse gas emissions before we face a climate catastrophe. Typically, this popular Union Square landmark, known as the Metronome, displays The Passage – numbers on the left side of the clock shows the time of day, and the right side shows the amount of time until midnight. But during Climate Week, which ended just a few weeks ago on September 27th, the clocks countdown displayed that we have just a little over 7 years to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to have a 67% chance of keeping the Earth’s temperature from warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial averages.
We’ve already seen a great deal of the harmful impacts brought on by climate change: storms growing worse, weather becoming more unpredictable, sea levels rising, among more. As we continue to add heat to the atmosphere, we push Earth’s natural climate balance toward one that grows increasingly unsustainable and dangerous. Climate scientists warn that if we surpass 1.5 degrees celsius of warming and approach 2 degrees, we can expect even more catastrophic climate impacts. This may include several hundred million more people who will be exposed to climate-related risks and poverty, the depletion of almost all coral reefs that support marine ecosystems, and sea levels rising approximately 4 inches, to name just a few. It’s important to note that each of these impacts causes a ripple effect in our climate system, impacting basically every aspect of life as we know it.
We do have time to change, though, and Golan and Boyd’s Climate Clock serves as a motivating reminder of that as well. A second number is flashed on the clock, this time in green, representing the percentage of the world’s energy that is being supplied from renewable resources. The goal is to reach 100% before the clock runs out. This is possible if we elect officials who are committed to diverting from fossil fuels and focus on building a more sustainable future. In New York, the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act mandates that we reach 100% clean energy by 2040 and economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050. NYLCV is working hard to make sure New York achieves these goals, and if other states and countries can do the same then keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius is still possible.
Although the clock at Union Square is no longer up, you can keep an eye out for similar installations in other cities around the world. To learn more about the project, the artists, and the science behind the timeline, you can visit climateclock.world.