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Dread Clock, Updated

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Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

New York City’s dread clock got a makeover. The 15-digit digital clock that once counted the hours, minutes and seconds to and from midnight was recently updated to display the amount of time we have left to take action on climate change before its effects become irreversible.

As the New York Times points out, the clock, an art project titled “Metronome,” has been a baffling fixture of Union Square for more than two decades. Some people have mistakenly believed that the clock’s rapidly changing numbers represented the expanding global population or the acres of rainforest that have been leveled to the ground.

Someone once told me matter-of-factly that the clock documented the United States’ national debt. (That clock is here.)

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Where the clock once gave me only a vague sense of impending doom, it now gives me a very specific one: On Saturday at 3:20 p.m, shortly after the new clock went live, we only had seven years, 103 days, 15 hours and seconds to do something about the climate crisis, according to the Times. Now it’s less! And now...and now!

The artists responsible for the “Climate Clock,” Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd—neither of whom are the creators of the original Metronome—aren’t leaving room for any ambiguity. The artists have arranged for messages like “The Earth has a deadline” to accompany the clock’s readings.

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It will display the shrinking window of time we have to meet that deadline until Sept. 27, which marks the end of New York City’s Climate Week.

It was much nicer to think the clock was tracking our country’s skyrocketing debt . Money is an artificial concept, but climate change is not.