The famous clock in Union Square that has been tracking the time of day since 1999 has been reset for a new countdown: the rapidly diminishing time left for the human race to take meaningful action to avert the most horrific and deadly consequences of climate change.
The Climate Clock was set up ahead of Climate Week over the weekend—a stark reminder of the very real and very current crisis the world faces while battling the COVID-19 health emergency. Seven years and a little more than 100 days is the time left, according to the clock, for when mankind would need to reach 100 percent renewable energy or become carbon neutral to limit global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Project originator Gan Golan says placing the clock in such a central location on a massive scale is aimed at synching everyone on the same climate timeline—a coordinated "lifeline."
"That's why we felt that a work of public art that is very central in New York City gives the issue the kind of attention that it deserves and having it at a monumental scale gives it that monumental importance because we cannot afford to lose sight of climate at this moment," Golan said.
The countdown clock is only set up in Union Square for Climate Week, until September 27th, when it will return to being a confusing clock.
While the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 in the U.S. alone and resulted in massive financial loss, the impacts of the climate crisis have also been devastating this summer. California has seen massive wildfires, with six of the state's 20 largest wildfires happening this year alone. The Gulf Coast's hurricane season has been particularly busy, as predicted, with hurricanes Laura and Sally seen as examples of intensifying storms due to climate change. Summer 2020 was the fourth hottest summer on record in the U.S., according to NOAA.
"We must see the climate crisis as an emergency that is present," project co-founder Andrew Boyd told Gothamist. "We often say it’s happening to someone else, somewhere else, at a later time, but it’s happening now, here, and to us."
Boyd says the COVID-19 crisis offers a timely lesson for approaching climate change.
"Our global pandemic... is also teachable moment for the larger climate crisis," Boyd said. "What did we learn? We learned that we need to flatten the COVID curve. We learned that we need to act together in a coordinated fashion, we need to act at scale, boldly, as well as early."
Climate activist Greta Thunberg received the first hand-held climate clock the artists made. Berlin had its own towering climate clock last year, according to the artists' website. The project's co-creators want to bring it to other cities too. The timing uses methodology from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin, which draws on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Another more positive tracker notes the rising percentage of the world's energy that comes from renewable resources—27 percent as of Monday morning, the artists' ticker reads.