In New York City, a Clock Counts Down to Climate Doomsday

The “Climate Clock” in Union Square in New York (photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Many still wonder what the unusual digital clock that sprawls over a building on Manhattan’s 14th Street, facing Union Square, represents. Normally, the clock, which is part of a permanent installation called the Metronome, counts time to and from midnight down to the fractions of a second. But on Saturday, September 19, it was transformed into a Climate Clock that broadcasts the time remaining to an all-out climate catastrophe.

“Earth has a deadline,” the LED screen flickers every few minutes and displays the time we have left to save the planet in years, days, hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of seconds. As of today, September 23, earth has about seven years and 99 days left before global warming reaches unsustainable levels, according to the Climate Clock.

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“Earth has a deadline,” the Cilmate Clock says

Created by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, the timer counts down how long it will take, at current rates of emissions, to deplete the earth’s “carbon budget” (the amount of CO2 that can still be released into the atmosphere while limiting global warming to 1.5°C, or 34.7 °F, above pre-industrial levels).

This deadline is based on information from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), which created a “Carbon Clock” based on data from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The artists, who told the New York Times that they previously created a mobile Climate Clock for climate activist Greta Thunberg, installed a similar clock in Berlin last year. After New York, the clock will travel to Paris next year. The current edition in Union Square will run through the end of Climate Week on September 27.


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