By Matthew Lavietes
NEW YORK, Sept 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Climate campaigners unveiled a huge countdown clock on Saturday, showing how little time is left before global temperatures hit a critical high, to kick off a week of climate action in New York.
The digital installation shows seven years and 102 days remain before average global temperatures, at current emission rates, reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"There's good news. That number isn't zero," said Gan Golan, an artist and activist who co-created the display.
"We can meet this challenge, but we don't have any time to lose," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The United Nations has warned of huge global changes, such as the loss of coral reefs and Arctic sea ice, if the 1.5 degree threshold is crossed.
Countries in the 2015 Paris Agreement agreed on measures to limit emissions to stay below the critical temperature mark.
The clock's installation will take over what is known as the Metronome, where 15 spinning LED digits tell the time of day and the time remaining in a day, down to a hundredth of a second.
It is set in the side of a glass building overlooking Union Square.
Wow. NYC just turned the Metronome in Union Square into @theclimateclock, which counts down the 7 years and 102 days we have left to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. pic.twitter.com/AO7s55Oset— March for Science (@MarchForScience) September 20, 2020
The Climate Clock will run for the length of Climate Week, an international summit run by global nonprofit, the Climate Group, in association with the United Nations and the city of New York, with panel discussions, film showings, and performances on global warming, many of them virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"A monumental challenge needs a monument, and the Climate Clock could serve as this constant, public reminder in the media and cultural capital of the globe of that shared deadline," said Daniel Zarrilli, New York City's chief climate policy advisor.
The unveiling comes as the United States has faced unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes, events of particularly ferocious and destructive weather that scientists say are linked to global warming.
Dozens of wildfires have raged across the Pacific Northwest, scorching more than 4.5 million acres (1.8 million hectares) and killing several dozen people.
Hurricane Sally hit the US Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the eighth storm of tropical or hurricane strength so far this year.
The extreme weather underscores the need to focus attention on climate change immediately, said Andrew Boyd, also a co-creator of the Climate Clock.
BREAKING: NYC just turned the giant Union Square clock into a #ClimateClock to hold governments and corporations accountable. We have 7 years and 102 days to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. Let’s do this! pic.twitter.com/raYdU0A03Y#ActInTime#GreenNewDeal#ClimateWeekNYC— 350NYC.org (@350NYC) September 20, 2020
"This clock is not saying 'Hey in seven years we get to wake up and start to do something,'" said Boyd. "It's about taking action right now. Climate change is already here."
The artists said they were in talks with officials in Berlin and in Geneva about similar clock installations.
Last year, Golan and Boyd said they created a handheld version of the clock for teen climate-change activist Greta Thunberg before she made a speech to world leaders at the U.N.
(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org). Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.