Countdown To the End of the World

Like all other living things, Mother Earth’s lifespan is only so long. She has outlived practically everything that’s ever stepped foot on this planet…up until now. Generation Z may outlive her yet, which is precisely the point of the new digital clock that has been installed in Manhattan, New York City. 

The digital clock, known as ‘Metronome,’ has been in Manhattan for over 20 years as an art project enacted by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd. Now, the clock displays something other than the regular Eastern Standard Time Zone. “It is measuring what [Golan and Boyd] present as a critical window for action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible,” writes the New York Times.

As of the clock’s installment on Saturday, Sep. 19, the Earth had seven years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes and seven seconds until the planet is scarred beyond repair from the effects of climate change and global warming. At the time of writing, Sep. 23, the window is smaller still and will only continue to diminish. The deadline rests on the cusp between the years 2027 and 2028. While this may seem far away, seven years in the grand scheme of things is but a blink of an eye. 

World in hand Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

‘The Climate Clock’ will remain on display on the 14th Street Building in One Union Square South, Manhattan, until Sep. 27; this day marks the end of Climate Week. According to the official Climate Week website, it is the “biggest climate summit taking place this year” with virtual events and programs occurring throughout New York City to teach citizens about how to pursue a more environmentally-friendly future. Boyd and Golan hope to find a more permanent home for the Climate Clock and say it’s perhaps the most important number in the world. 

So what exactly will happen when the time on the Climate Clock runs out in seven years? The answer is nothing, at least not immediately; it will just mark the point of no return, and the moment when actions toward combating climate change become futile. The deadline marks the time until “Earth’s carbon budget is depleted, based on current emission rates. A total depletion would thrust the world into further turmoil and suffering…” writes Jennifer Hassan of The Washington Post.

Furthermore, the deadline signals the time left until Earth’s temperature is set to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius if no powerful actions are taken to stop this. If the Earth’s temperature does rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the things we have been experiencing for the past several years will only increase tenfold: extreme heatwaves, fires like the ones occurring currently in California, and water supplies cut off and rationed. 

Not all is as bleak as it seems. However, there is a second number on The Climate Clock, displayed in green in a stark juxtaposition to the red of the deadline. The number in green is being referred to as a "lifeline,” as it displays the amount of energy that is still available to us. This available energy is supplied from renewable, eco-friendly sources. 

The clock serves as a warning from artists Golan and Boyd to the citizens of the world. The ultimate goal is to see the ‘lifeline’ of available energy reach 100 percent before the deadline reaches zero and it is too late to turn back. 

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