Climate Change: What Story the Climate Clock is Telling us.

Nweke Chinonso


The Climate Clock which was installed in Manhattan’s Union Square, a building 10 stories high, for everyone to see, is counting down to apocalypse. It reminds us every day how perilously close we are to the brink of climate disaster.

Every second is a countdown of how much time humanity has to settle the climate crisis before it drifts to a point of irreversible change.

The metronome in Manhattan’s Union Square in New York City, which was completed 22 years ago, is the artwork of Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel, purposely created for measurement of time.

However in September 2020, artists and activists, Gan Golan, Kate Peyton Hofstadter, Adrian Carpenter and Andrew Boyd, repurposed the metronome in Union Square in New York City to show the Climate Clock.

The Clock which was repurposed to track global emissions and temperature data is equally aimed at visualising and measuring progress towards the global climate target of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Also, the clock shows a percentage in green, which is the fraction of energy produced with renewable sources. According to the artists, this number is called the “lifeline.”

On the 17th of September the same year,  the clock began counting down from 7 years, 103 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes, and 7 seconds.

When the clock runs out, the average global temperature is estimated to be –16.278°C above industrial levels. If greenhouse gas emissions persist, we will face irreversible climate disaster.

At the time of writing this article,  it shows that the world must achieve zero emissions within 7 years, 48 days, 14 hour, 49 minutes and 10 seconds. This was because of reset to the Clock in 2021, save of which we would have 5 years remaining.

However, by the time you read this, it will have ticked down further. It is, therefore, an issue of serious concern that we are in a climate emergency.

Decades of increasing greenhouse gas emissions are harming the natural and societal systems upon which life depends, threatening boundless ecological and human devastation, which portends the human extinction if we do not act in time.

Climate Crisis; the Coming Apocalypse.

We are flooded with scientific evidence and warnings that we are running out of time. Human civilisation is on alarming trajectory to the worst disaster in human history.

Sadly for us, the climate crisis is outpacing our emotional capacity and overt actions to bring to halt the human-induced climate change.

This is unlike a war or a pandemic that we can recover from in a few decades. It is also different from the “End Time” religious prophecies or disaster films, in which the human experiment culminates in dramatic final spectacles.

This is a disaster that will take centuries, if not millennia, to recover from, if recovery is even possible at all.

Climate change therefore is an issue humanity must passionately care about, and step up actions to stop this coming climate apocalypse – a global collapse of human civilization and potential human extinction.

While warning humanity on the impending disaster driven by the unsustainable global energy system. The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in 2021, confirmed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record.

The Organisation attributed this to what it called “the dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption.” In addition, the Organisation listed the four crucial climate change indicators, namely greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification, all of which set new records in 2021.

In lending his voice, the UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres used the above quoted publication of the WMO to call for urgent action to grab the “low-hanging fruit” of transforming energy systems away from the “dead end” of fossil fuels to renewable energy.

All thanks to the world’s oceans for its enormous heat-trapping potential, save for which the earth’s land surface would already be too hot to sustain life.

Luckily for humans, the oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by human-emitted greenhouse gases, thereby slowing the warming of the atmosphere.

However, humanity’s luck is fast running out with oceans’ acidification now at its highest peak since the wake of the industrial era and threating to unravel marine ecosystems.

The Effects of Climate Crisis.

The climate apocalypse is coming, and this is not a science fiction. How much nations reduce the greenhouse gas emissions will go a long way in determining the  future impact of the climate crisis.

Signs that scientists predicted in the past, i.e., loss of sea ice, rise in sea level, more intense heat waves, et al., are now occurring. The observed changes in climate are already having extensive impact on ecosystems, the economy and on human health and well-being.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to avert the impending disastrous health impact and as well, prevent millions of climate change-related deaths, the world must limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C.

Regrettably, past emissions have already caused a certain level of global temperature rise and other changes to the climate, and the truth remains that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is still not considered safe.

Be that as it may, any additional degree of warming will take a serious toll on people’s lives and health, and will ultimately spell doom to human existence.

While the brutal truth remains that no one is safe from the coming climate apocalypse, however, there are people whose health are being harmed first and worst by the climate crisis.

Unfortunately, these are  people who contribute least to its causes – obviously these are people in least industrialized and disadvantaged countries.

In Africa, for instance, it is projected that between 75 and 250 million people will be exposed to increased water stress, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in the North and South African regions, agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.

Also, in Asia, one of the regions most vulnerable to climate crisis,  it is projected that freshwater will decrease in Central, South, East and Southeast of the continent in the coming years; coastal areas will be at risk due to increased flooding.

Death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts is expected to rise in some regions.

Already, the unrelenting rise in heat waves in India, is causing birds to drop out of the skies in the western part of the country due to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

No thanks to humans. All these extreme events have occurred against a backdrop of what WMO attributed as “the dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption.”

Since 1800s the Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.08°C per decade. However, in the wake of 1980s saw the rate of global warming double per decade.

According to NASA, the average temperature in 2020 together with that of 2016  was the warmest temperature on record. In 2020 alone, the surface temperature was 0.98°C warmer than the twentieth-century average of 13.9°C and 1.19˚C warmer than the pre-industrial period.

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Climate Clock is clearly ringing an emergency alarm to our ears that we are truly running out of time and if nothing is done, the climate apocalypse will be inevitable.

The human-induced climate change, have in the space of an average lifetime,  changed the chemistry of both the global atmosphere and oceans, with far-reaching consequences which we are only beginning to truly grasp.

Pope Francis while teaching us on the need to care for our common home – the earth, in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si‘, stated thus

…  that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life…this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated…

The words of the Holy Father remind us that it is time to stop plundering our sister – the earth, at will, but rather roll up our sleeves and save her and in extension humanity from the coming climate apocalypse.

If not for us and our children, then at least for the over 8 million innocent species of plants and animals that exist on the earth with us.

In order to save the planet and, in extension, life on earth, achieving the goals set out in the Paris agreement, which is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, becomes necessary.

The agreement which was adopted by 196 countries at COP 21 in Le Bourget, France on December 12, 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016 aims at limiting global warming, preferably to 1.5°C.

The following are therefore humbly recommended in a sequential order, from what the government can do, to what we can do in our various capacities.

1. Putting an End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies. One of the factors that holds back efforts of delivering the Paris Agreement is fossil fuel subsidies.

Regrettably, Nigeria is a big player, with the Federal legislators having approved a whopping 4 trillion Naira on petrol subsidies in 2022, alone. This is outright encouragement of waste and discouraging of low-carbon growth.

Putting an end to fossil fuel subsidies, will see countries like Nigeria relocate their spending to areas where it is most needed and most effective.

2. Implementing Carbon Pricing.
Putting an end to greenhouse gas emissions starts with clear policy signals. A carbon tax, where the government sets out a price that emitters must pay per ton of greenhouse gas emitted, can help.

Although, this is not sufficient to end the carbon emissions however, setting out  a monetary amount of efficiency can help force these big perpetrator companies to reduce their carbon emissions.

3. Encouraging Climate-smart Agriculture Practices.
Agriculture is one the areas mostly affected by the climate crisis. Hence to balance the near-term food security, the third area for action on the side of the government is encouraging the integrated approach to managing farms, crops, livestock and aquaculture.

These practices help farmers increase their farms’ productivity and resilience to the impacts of climate change.

4. Speak Up! Educate Yourself and Others.
We all have a collective role to play in stopping the coming climate apocalypse and in extension, saving lives on earth.

The biggest way you can make an impact is by talking to friends and family, on what climate change is doing to our planet.

You can use the social media channels to propagate this idea, too. Most importantly, educating yourself by being up to date with the recent climate change reports and informing others cannot be overemphasized.

Another way you can help protect the earth and humanity from the coming apocalypse is to join a community or organisations who are fighting the environmental cause.

I strongly recommend one for you, The EnviromanProject. They are reachable on Twitter at @ENVIROMANp

5. Reduce the Use of Plastic.
While being an important material for our economy, plastics can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade. Thus, it takes a valuable space in landfill sites and  contributes to the global warming. Finding alternatives to plastic is encouraged.

6. Use Renewable Energy.
No discussion on ending climate crisis would be complete without recommending renewable energy, because renewable energy sources don’t emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Using  power generation from wind or solar can help reduce the global warming and help save the planet.

About the author:
Nweke Chinonso is a legal writer and researcher, with unalloyed interest for Environmental law, International Law, Artificial Intelligence Law, ADR, among others. He’s a co-projector with the The ENVIROMANProject. He can be reached at [email protected]

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