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Giant Clock In Manhattan Shows How Much Time Is Left To Act On Climate Change

As if the 21st century didn't have enough challenges to overcome, climate change is not going away any time soon. We're already seeing the effects, with average global temperatures rising, extended and highly active hurricane seasons, wildfires raging across Australia, the United States, and South America, increasingly frequent devastating floods, prolonged droughts and heat waves, and shrinking ice caps.

As more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere, things are only going to get worse, too. And as a pair of climate activists are trying to draw attention to, we are quickly running out of time to do anything about it.

That the planet is warming — and that it's due to human activity — is no longer in dispute.

Even if some people still deny human-caused climate change, insurance companies, property developers, the military, and basically anybody trying to plan for more than the immediate future treat it as a real and growing threat and it's an area that has received extensive, thorough, heavy study over the past 30 years.

As NASA puts it, "The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia."

The good news is that there's still time to act.

And that's the message climate activists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd are trying to get across with their countdown clock now looking over Union Square in Manhattan. They've taken over a clock that used to display the current time as well as the time left in the day.

Now, it shows the years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds left to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to give us a two-thirds chance of avoiding 1.5 degrees C of warming compared to pre-industrial times, which is the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to the new clock, we have just over seven years to reach that goal.

The clock has another feature as well, showing the percentage of energy produced by renewable sources in green, which Golan and Boyd refer to as the "lifeline."

"Simply put, we need to get our lifeline to 100% before our deadline reaches 0," they wrote on the clock's website.

It's an ambitious goal to be sure, but one Golan and Boyd say is critical to try to reach. "You can't negotiate with reality. You can't negotiate with science. Scientists are telling us that the next seven years are crucial to the fate of the Earth and to humanity," Boyd told CBS News.

Boyd and Golan are hopeful that their clock will serve as a reminder to passersby that action needs to be taken on climate change right now.

"This is not a doomsday clock; the number is not zero. It’s telling us there is still time, but we can’t waste it," Golan told The Washington Post. "The world is literally counting on us. Every hour, every minute, every second, counts."

"This clock is not saying 'Hey in seven years we get to wake up and start to do something,'" Boyd added to Reuters. "It's about taking action right now. Climate change is already here."

Golan and Boyd are also hopeful that they'll be able to put up other clocks in major cities around the globe.

Although the Union Square clock is slated to come down on September 27, the end of New York's Climate Week, Golan and Boyd are working on expanding their climate clock idea.

"We believe that having these monumental clocks visible in public squares across the world, and smaller ones in universities and classrooms and corporate lobbies, all showing the same number, can get us all on the same page," Golan told CBS News. "We need for everyone in the world to 'synchronize our watches.'"

h/t: CBS News, The Washington Post, Reuters

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