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‘Climate Clock’, New York
‘Climate Clock’, New Yorkvia Twitter/@theclimateclock

A new clock counts how long we have to stop an irreversible climate crisis

Installed in Manhattan’s Union Square, the ‘Climate Clock’ counts down to the depletion of Earth’s carbon budget

A new digital clock dubbed the “Climate Clock” has been installed in Manhattan’s Union Square, counting down the time we have left – to the second – until Earth’s carbon budget is depleted. At the time of its unveiling on Monday (September 21), by the artists and co-creators Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, the “Climate Clock” gave us seven years and 102 days, based on current emission rates (which equates to burning around 306.5 billion tons of carbon). 

As explained on the project’s website, the budget is based on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere while limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. Total depletion is expected to cause irreversible damage, significantly increasing the frequency and severity of famine, poverty, and displacement worldwide, and causing higher rates of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and wildfires.

The “Climate Clock” also includes a second figure though, which its creators describe as a “lifeline” compared with the “deadline” of the carbon budget. Presented in green, the second figure represents the percentage of the world’s energy that is supplied by renewable sources: currently just over 27.7 per cent.

“Simply put, we need to get our lifeline to 100 per cent before our deadline reaches 0,” they explain (a hopefulness that differentiates the project from the Doomsday Clock, which has been ticking towards midnight, AKA a manmade global catastrophe, since it was created in 1947).

In case you wanted a constant reminder of our steadily depleting carbon budget, the “Climate Clock” website also offers instructions to make your own, inexpensive version, based on the team’s assembly of a personal clock for Greta Thunberg, which the teen climate activist has since carried on her travels around the world.

Golan and Boyd’s “Climate Clock” will be displayed at One Union Square South until the end of Climate Week, September 27.