“A view of the ClimateClock in Union Square in New York City. The clock, installed by project co-founders Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd in honor of Climate Week, counts down the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds Earth has left to take action to stop global warming. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
The year 2028 could be one of stunning accomplishment or somber failure, depending on how society at large reacts to the current global warming crisis. An initiative called ClimateClock, created by a pair of activists/artists, intends to ensure that we land in the former category. And if they’re not successful, don’t say they didn’t warn you.
In an push reminiscent of the Doomsday Clock, the ClimateClock is a worldwide project dedicated to shining a light on a very serious problem — the amount of time the world has left to prevent global warming effects from turning totally irreversible. At press time, there’s about seven years and 98 days left ticking away on the timer. The clock is based on the carbon clock made by the MercatorResearch Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), using data from the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.
At the top of the ClimateClock website, two numbers are present. The red number is a timer, created to count down how much longer Earth has before the "carbon budget" has been burned through (calculated using current emission rates). The carbon budget is the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can safely be released, while also restricting global warming to a maximum of 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit/1.5 degrees Celsius greater than pre-industrial levels. Failure to reign in the global warming crisis could cause as much as $54 trillion in damages to ecosystems the world over. "This is our deadline, the time we have left to take decisive action to keep warming under the 1.5°C threshold," the site explains.
By contrast, the second number (in green) depicts a much more positive number. It tracks the steadily increasing amount of worldwide energy made using renewable energy sources. Or, as the project puts it, "This is our lifeline. Simply put, we need to get our lifeline to 100% before our deadline reaches 0." Currently, that figure is around 28 percent.
The ClimateClock made its debut as part of 2020 Climate Week (Sept. 21-27) on the site of the 14th Street building in Manhattan, according to The New York Times. It stands next to an artwork called “Metronome,” which has gold concentric circles.
The creators hope the clock will be permanently displayed somewhere, the NYT reported. The aim of the installation is to raise awareness about the looming deadline and inspire others like it to pop up around the world. The site also supplies step-by-step instructions and a list of affordable materials on how to make a portable climate clock for home, school or even work.
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
Now That’s Scary
Coal-burning power plants are the biggest sources of CO2 emissions in the United States, responsible for 1.7 billion tons (1.5 billion metric tons) every year. Using fossil fuels to generate electricity is directly responsible for the creation of heat-trapping pollution.