For the past two decades, a giant digital display in Manhattan’s Union Square has clocked up the accumulation of days, hours, minutes and seconds for the thousands of New Yorkers who hurry past it each day.
Now, for the first time, it’s counting down: Revealing just how little time we have left to tackle the climate crisis before the planet is past a tipping point of irreversible change.
As of writing, that number is 7 years, 98 days, 15 hours… and counting.
It was installed earlier this week by climate activists and artists with the Climate Clock project, to mark a week of climate action in New York taking place during the annual United Nations General Assembly. The gathering of global leaders is being held largely virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s good news. That number isn’t zero,” Gan Golan, an artist and activist who co-created the display, told Reuters.
“We can meet this challenge, but we don’t have any time to lose."
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that countries must work together to reduce emissions to curb global warming to 1.5C, a goal which is becoming increasingly ambitious.
If the global temperature rises above that level, scientists that the planet will feel even more devastating impacts from sea-level rise and loss of coral reefs to more intense heatwaves and extreme events such as wildfires, droughts and typhoons.
At our current emission rates, we will hit 1.5C in just over seven years.
The installation took over the Metronome, installed on the side of a glass-fronted building overlooking Union Square in lower Manhattan for the past 20 years. Its 15 spinning LED digits count time down to a hundredth of a second.
It is set in the side of a glass building overlooking Union Square.
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