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

2016 emissions data allowed Concordia's research team to add a year to their global-warming countdown
March 8, 2017
By Gillian Nycum and Cléa Desjardins

Climate Clock co-developer Damon Matthews: “We have seen progress, but the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds are still approaching rapidly." “We have seen progress, but the 1.5 and 2°C thresholds are still approaching rapidly."

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."

The Climate Clock

‘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 effect 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.). The Concordia Student Union will present a panel discussion on climate change at 6 p.m. on March 18, in the Alumni Auditorium (H-110, Hall Building, 1455 De Maisonneuve W.). 



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