With Climate Week NYC kicking off a week of virtual events today, a well-known public art installation at New York’s Union Square has been repurposed into a countdown clock the shows the time remaining before humanity burns through its remaining 1.5°C carbon budget.
As of 4:00 PM Saturday, when Fast Company told the story, the clock stood at seven years, 105 days, 22 hours.
Climate Week will be the world’s biggest climate summit this year and coincides with the United Nations General Assembly, which begins tomorrow.
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“We felt a monumental challenge like this needed something monumental in scale—a monument,” said designer and artist Gan Golan, who worked on the project alongside climate artist and activist Andrew Boyd. “We also wanted it to be in public, something that you couldn’t push out of sight, out of mind. We wanted something that would bring public attention to the climate on a daily basis, so it’s something that we can’t ignore.”
The Metronome at Union Square previously displayed the time of day, Fast Company explains. Golan said it was more important to dramatize the need for action if countries want to retain a 67% chance of keeping average global warming below 1.5°C.
“We have this incredible, stark deadline that we have to reckon with,” he told Fast Company. “But the good news is that the number isn’t zero. It’s clarifying this time window that we have to take bold action. And so we think of this not just as a deadline, but as a lifeline, as really outlining the opportunity that we have to make the kinds of bold, transformative change that is necessary.”
In that spirit, he said the clock is designed so that more time can be added as emissions fall.
“This is not meant to be static,” Golan explained. “This is not a statue just sitting there in our public environment. This is a dynamic message, and one that we hope people respond to so it becomes a catalyst for action. We’re hoping the clock serves as a tool for climate organizations and advocates and activists to be able to reference to hold governments and hold corporations accountable. Because we can all point to this clock and say, ‘This is how much time we have left. We all need to be doing more’.”
Fast Company says the artists provide more detail on climate solutions in an accompanying app (though theirs is not the only one out there, and their calculations don’t necessarily match up). Golan’s and Boyd’s version includes a “DIY maker kit” to produce your own countdown clock, and #FridaysforFuture founder Greta Thunberg has already requested one.