The Doomsday Clock is close to midnight: How much time is left?
The New York City Metronome clock is one of the city’s prominent landmarks but also has baffled many. The clock is an art installation by Andrew Ginzel & Kristin Jones in 1999 and has presented the time for over twenty years. Two new artists, Gan Golan & Andrew Boyd, took over the clock for the week for a new time-sensitive display.
What is the New York City Metronome clock?
According to The New York Times, many confused by the Metronome clock thought it was tracking the world population or something to do with pi. But, in fact, it was telling the time in fifteen digits without any collins or identifying marks.
In its twenty years in Union Square, The New York Metronome clock has been changed a few times. In 2005, it was changed to count down the time until the International Olympics Committee announced the 2012 Olympics location, for which New York had a bid. For over a year in 2010, the clock was presenting the wrong time because its dial-up connection was updated.
Traditionally, the Metronome reads the time relative to midnight. The seven leftmost numbers read the time: hours (2 digits), minutes (2 digits), seconds (2 digits), tenths of a second (1 digit). The seven rightmost digits display the amount of time remaining in a 24-hour day: tenths of a second (1 digit), seconds (2 digits), minutes (2 digits), hours (2 digits). The center digit represents hundredths of a second for both.
If the clock reads 195641189180304, then it’s 19:56 and 41.1 seconds, or 7:56 pm, and there are 4 hours, 3 minutes, and 18.9 seconds remaining in the day.
The new display
Today the clock display is much grimmer. The Metronome clock is counting down the time remaining before the Earth uses up its carbon budget, a big factor in preventing global warming. When the clock made the switch on Sept. 19, the time from left to right read 710315400, five digits short of its usual fifteen. The new number means there is 7 years, 103 days, 15 hours, and 40 minutes remaining until a global climate catastrophe.
According to Golan & Boyd, the measurement is based on the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons & Climate Change. Their research states any warming above 1.5ºC this century will have catastrophic effects on everything from rising sea level, storms, drought, and weather events like tornados & hurricanes. MRI estimates there are about 7.5 years left.
MRI’s 7.5 years is not the only timeline until irreversible global warming. An eleven-year timeline was discussed at a General Assembly of the United Nations in 2019. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports we could have until 2030, but environmental neglect in 2020 could shorten the window or make it vanish.
Why create the clock?
Golan explained the project “is our way to shout that number from the rooftops.” He & Boyd already installed what they call “climate clocks” in Berlin & Paris. The New York Metronome clock is the first installation in the U.S. The “Climate Clock” will be displayed only through Sept. 27. Still, there are hopes for a permanent display either as the New York Metronome clock or elsewhere in the U.S.
Golan & Boyd drew inspiration from the “Doomsday Clock” maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the National Debt Clock near Bryant Park in Manhattan. According to The New York Times, Boyd stated, “this is arguably the most important number in the world, and a monument is often how a society shows what’s important, what it elevates, what is at center stage.”