Crisis Countdown: New York Climate Clock Shows Time Left Before Ecological Collapse

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A new digital clock has been unveiled in Manhattan’s Union Square in New York City, displaying the time left to act – down to the very second – before we reach complete climate collapse. The installation is a part of a campaign by artists who are raising awareness on the need to take action on climate change in order to avoid the irreversible impacts it will bring to our planet and humanity that scientists have warned for decades. 

On Monday (September 21), the Climate Clock landed in New York City, warning those checking the time at 1:30pm that there is precisely only 7 years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds before Earth’s carbon budget is wiped out. The timer, calculated based on current emission rates, is on display until September 27 to mark Climate Week. 

Once our planet’s carbon budget is depleted, the world is destined for a domino of climate-induced disasters, from frequent flooding to severe wildfires, drought and heat waves that will drive the collapse of crucial resources we depend on such as key food crops, leading to famine and mass human displacement. Earlier this week, a report made the dire warning that climate change could displace over 1 billion people within just the next 30 years. 

Our planet has a deadline. But we can turn it into a lifeline.

Andrew Boyd, Co-Creator of Climate Clock

The Climate Clock is created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, inspired by the birth of Golan’s first child one week before the United Nations IPCC released its report on the little time left we have to make progress on climate change and keep temperature rise under 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. The clock has previously been shown in Berlin in September 2019. 

In addition to the timer in red showing the “deadline” the world has to prevent catastrophic climate events, the clock also displays a second figure in green, dubbed a “lifeline”. The lifeline represents the percentage of available energy currently being supplied by renewable sources – a figure that the artist-activists hope will increase as climate awareness grows. 

“Simply put, we need to get our lifeline to 100% before our deadline reaches 0,” says Climate Clock’s website.

Different countries and different communities may have different roles, but we all have to be on the same timeline. The world is literally counting on us. Every hour, every minute, every second, counts.

Gan Golan, Co-Creator of Climate Clock

Our planet has a deadline. But we can turn it into a lifeline,” Boyd added, in conversation with The Washington Post.

As the world battles the coronavirus crisis on top of the climate emergency, Boyd and Golan hope that their Climate Clock installation in New York City will reignite the conversation about the need to take collective climate action, and to put sustainability at the heart of rebuilding plans all over the world. 

“Different countries and different communities may have different roles, but we all have to be on the same timeline,” said Golan. “The world is literally counting on us. Every hour, every minute, every second, counts.”


Lead image courtesy of Zack Winestine / The Climate Clock.

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