The climate clock in New York reminded us of how time is running out to reduce carbon emissions before the effects are irreversible. But who’s responsible? Are we as individuals powerless in the fight against climate change?
For over 20 years, the public art installation, ‘Metronome’, told the time to the people of New York. But for a brief week in September, it became a ‘climate clock’: a countdown showing the time we have left until the effects of climate change are irreversible.
The clock was initially installed by the artists Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel in 1999, their intention being for the viewer to ‘question their existence in relation to their natural and built environment’. The idea to reimagine ‘Metronome’ came from Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan, 2 other artists who believe the countdown may be a way of ‘drawing the world’s attention to the urgency of action’. It shows the time humanity has to burn through the ‘carbon budget’ while limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
The deadline itself looms on the 1st January 2028. The message of the countdown is clear: we need to act now. The question is can we, as the general public, truly make a difference?
On the one hand, perhaps we can. Some believe that awareness is the first step towards becoming environmentally conscious. For example, people can support ‘eco-friendly’ companies and actively try and reduce their carbon footprint.
But can individual actions truly make a difference in the face of a problem so vast? According to the Carbon Majors Report, 100 companies account for 71% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions over the last 30 years. Conscious choices to shop ethically can be difficult when most industries are dominated by a few large corporations. Even companies who declare themselves to be committed to reducing carbon emissions in principle do not carry out their targets in practice. This is seen in P&G, who promise to ‘reduce annual emissions to 50% by 2030’, when in fact, their target only accounts for a fraction of their total output. This means their initial 50% reduction becomes just 1% when considering their carbon emissions from raw materials and distribution. It is troubling how easily these companies can lie to their consumers and are continuously unregulated by the government.
This is not to say that individual actions aren’t important. We should all try, when possible, to be eco-friendly and conscious of our everyday choices. But it is not fair to shame individuals or ask them to take all responsibility for global warming when, statistically, they are not to blame.
Those who have the most power to reduce carbon emissions are corporations and governments, and as the countdown continues, it is they who must be held accountable.
The real-time climate clock: https://climateclock.world
Take the carbon footprint test: https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/
How you can be more eco-friendly: https://www.goodenergy.co.uk/blog/2017/08/22/ultimate-guide-eco-friendly-living/