It isn't too late to turn back the Climate Clock

The Climate Clock, showing that the world could hit 1.5°C of warming because of climate change in just 16 years, unless nations make drastic cuts to emissions. Image: Human Impact Lab
2016 emission's data helped researchers to reset the Climate Clock, a science and art installation that ticks down the time the world has left before undergoing dangerous levels of warming.

This news release was posted by Concordia University and written by Gillian Nycum and Cléa Desjardins. You can read the original version in English and French.

To read more about the Climate Clock, see this blog post from Future Earth.

Data from the 2016 Global Carbon Budget produced by the Global Carbon Project, a global research project of Future Earth, was used in resetting the Climate Clock. The project's Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and a member of the Future Earth Science Committee, will participate in a panel discussion about the clock on 18 March in Montreal. This event is co-hosted by the Concordia Student Union, Concordia University, Human Impact Lab and Future Earth.

To learn more about this panel discussion, see the announcement here.

Despite recent blows to the fight against climate change, there is finally some reason for hope. A new calculation of the time remaining until the planet reaches 1.5 and 2°C of warming shows that international efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions are having an effect. 

2016 emissions data reveals that humanity has managed to push back these climate thresholds by more than a year.

This progress is being tracked by the Climate Clock, a visualization tool developed by researchers at Concordia and the Human Impact Lab. The clock harnesses big data, art, technology and interactivity to add the metric of time to the conversation about climate change.

To mark the progress achieved in the year since the clock was first set, the Concordia Student Union is projecting the Climate Clock outdoors on the Sir George Williams Campus from March 10 to 19. The display will coincide with a meeting of the Future Earth governing council and a free panel discussion on March 18, which is open to the public.

"Every year, a group of leading climate scientists from around the world evaluates the latest data and we restart the Climate Clock with a new time,” explains co-developer Damon Matthews.

“This year, we have seen progress. But while time has been added to the countdown, the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds are still approaching rapidly." 

Matthews is a professor of Geography, Planning and Environment in the Faculty of Arts and Science. He cautions that, even with recent progress, 1.5°C is only 16 years away.

“The upper limit of acceptable warming that we have committed to in the Paris Agreement is 2°C. We’ll reach that in less than 30 years.”

Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, UK, says that the world can change that outlook, but it will take deep cuts to emissions. “The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming that rising greenhouse gases from human activities are the main cause of climate change,” she says. “World countries have begun the transition to a low-carbon economy, but this is not happening fast enough to tackle the issue of climate change. Time is critical.”

We don’t measure our lives in degrees

Human Impact Lab creative director and Climate Clock co-developer David Usher agrees. "There is growing pressure to dismiss the climate change imperative altogether. It is more important than ever to reinvent and strengthen the story about what is one of the defining challenges of our generation," says the renowned Canadian musician.

"The world has committed to limiting global warming to below 2 °C to avoid irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate changes. But there is a disconnect between the big data and public perception of how it will affect our lives and those of our children.”

Usher argues that time is a more immediate, less abstract way of conceptualizing climate change.

“After all, we don’t measure our lives in degrees — we measure them in years."  

From March 10 to 19, the Climate Clock will be projected outside on Concordia's downtown campus (de Maisonneuve W.).

For more information about the Climate Clock contact Gillian Nycum, Human Impact Lab, at gnycum@gmail.com