A new feature, the Climate Clock, was added to New York City’s Union Square from Sept. 19-27. This Climate Clock featured the amount of time its creators believe humans have to make changes to combat climate change before it becomes an irreversible issue.
The Climate Clock replaced the Metronome digital clock in Union Square that usually displays the time that has passed and the time remaining in the day. The installation of this clock, initiated by project founders Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, took place before Climate Week, an annual summit in New York City to address climate change.
The Climate Clock indicated that, according to its founders, humans could have only a little over seven years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a point that earth will have a 67% chance of avoiding a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in global temperature since the pre-industrial era.
This objective aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement, a global agreement among many countries to implement efforts to limit climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an increase beyond the 1.5-degree Celsius limit could have more extensive impacts on the world.
“The clock is intended to be the first of many in major cities across the world, helping government and citizens synchronize our watches around a shared global timeline to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases,” said Dr. Bonjun Koo, professor of environmental science. “It is more symbolic time. Since there are so many factors that may affect the time, such as the human effort to reduce greenhouse gases, I think we can change the time.”
Climate change occurs when greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere and trap solar energy reflecting from the earth’s surface, leading to an increase in temperature.
Mariah Vertulfo, senior environmental science major, said that many factors, including human population growth, the degradation of natural resources, deforestation and farming with monocultures can contribute to climate change.
“Not a lot of people are knowledgeable about or have been introduced to new sustainable methods and environmentally-conscious methods of development,” Vertulfo said. “We continue to grow and expand because as a society, we think of development as economic growth. We have to consider the environment first.”
Scientists predict climate change could have far-reaching effects. Koo said some major issues linked to the phenomenon include heat stress, waterborne and insect-transmitted diseases, pollution and extreme weather and natural disasters.
“One thing I do as the teacher’s assistant with the environmental science program is aim to give people the resources to formulate their own opinions,” said Miranda Johnson-Phillips, senior environmental science major. “If we have irreversible climate change, we will be inhibited from living the life God called us to because of our negligence, so we should respond with the desire to live well.”
Koo said governments can take action to combat climate change by encouraging research, working toward energy efficiency, promoting the use of renewable energy resources and protecting forests and ecosystems.
“I want students to know it is real and is an actual occurring event, but not to be fearful of it,” Johnson-Phillips said. “The data received from scientists, researchers and experts can be overwhelming, and that can cause fear, and fear can lead to this helpless state. We have the capability to change the reality if we take on the responsibility.”
Koo said students can use energy-efficient light bulbs, use forms of transportation other than personal cars, recycle, reduce their use of air conditioning and heating, avoid plugging in electronic devices unnecessarily and become educated about environmental issues.