Real-Time Carbon Counter Is 70-Foot-Tall Vision of Climate Doom

By Allison Bond | June 19, 2009 4:15 pm

Carbon CounterCurious how much carbon the atmosphere contains at this moment? Look no further than a giant “carbon counter” first switched on yesterday morning near New York City’s Pennsylvania Station. The 70-foot-tall screen, lit by digital low-energy LED, displays in real time the amount of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere–and therefore gives some indication of how much trouble humanity is facing from global warming.

People outside of New York, don’t despair: The constantly scrolling numbers can be viewed at the project’s Web site as well. The numbers shown are based on measurements developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and include all the long-lasting greenhouse gases in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was established at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change [Bloomberg].

The clock, which is illuminated 24 hours a day, is also environmentally friendly. It uses low-risk carbon credits to offset its energy use, while illuminating digital numbers with 40,960 low-energy light-emitting diodes [Bloomberg]. The counter is a project Deutsche Asset Management, a branch of Deutsche Bank that invests in industries that mitigate or adapt to climate change. 

The carbon counter is only blocks away from another ominous sign. At 44th Street and the Avenue of the Americas, a giant billboard ticks upward to mark the growing national debt. During its 20-year run, New Yorkers have watched the numbers race from $2.7 trillion to $11.4 trillion. And it keeps on ticking [The New York Times, blog].

As of today, the sign clocks more than 3.6 trillion metric tons of greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Says Kevin Parker of Deutsche Bank: “We hope with this sign that it is going to foster a sense of urgency about the problem, raise public awareness, create a need for education and really spur a call for action [New York Daily News]. Every month, the carbon count is expected to increase by 2 billion metric tons.

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Image: Deutsche Bank

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Sarah

    This is a great idea… but, we are doomed, aren’t we?

  • Anthony

    Yes Sarah, we are doomed. Finally the world is starting to act, but it much to little and much too late. For so many, what is already locked in will prove to be unmanageable.

    We need to do so much adaption. Yet one side doesn’t want to admit any problem and the other doesn’t want to talk about adaption because it might limit mitigation.

    So we will neither manage the unavoidable nor avoid the unmanageable.

  • WEUer

    Oh my gosh.
    At the current rate, it will increase by a trillion tons to over 4 trillion tons in little over a year from now. In 84 years, it will be 100 trillion.
    I wonder what the temperature will be like. =.=

  • Zen

    Your math is a little off there WEUer.

    At 2 billion metric tons per month that’s only 24 billion metric tons a year. We need 400 more billion metric tons to get to 4 trillion so that’s about 16.6 years. To be accurate the Deutsche Bank should also reflect that about 60% of the 3.6 trillion metric tons have been absorbed by Gaia. Maybe a global mean temperature graph showing no significant rise in temperature would be nice too.

    Do you think the bank can right this off their income taxes as advertising?

  • Doug

    In the last thousand years our world went through first an heating in average world temperature (that resulting in less famine because of longer growing seasons) and a mini ice age that we just came out of in the last century.

    The UN says the climate may raise 1 to 2 degrees over the next century. (Mankind attributes less than .1% of the carbon in the atmosphere.) That prediction is based on the same computer models used to tell us what the weather will be like in the next 10 days or so-they don’t predict much further then that because it gets incredibly inaccurate. I don’t know where you live (I live in So Cal, probably one of the easiest place on earth to predict the weather) but they’re not so good at telling us what the weather will be like.

    It also takes about a century for the oceans to recycle the ocean. Yes. The oceans acts like a giant filter and cleans the air. And, no the oceans won’t terribly effected either.

    I’m not going to freak out about it. You shouldn’t either.

    Be smart. Recycle and do your part to help the environment.

    We’re gonna be just fine.

  • Brian M


  • addicited to Bad

    You see how well this approach has worked for national debt.

  • James E.

    There was one article I read, on this site I believe, that made an elegant point about climate change. Paraphrased “We know that carbon emissions produced by human society effect the climate. The question that we still need the answers for is, what scale will our emissions effect the climate and how will the other variables that relate to climate change (our emissions are not the only factor) will change in response. Just because we have an effect does not mean it has to be a major effect and greenhouse gasses are not the only factor to look at. We as a society sometimes tend to give our self’s too much credit in what we can effect and forget to take into account that the planet is capable of regulating its self and other variables will change to help balance out the system. That does not mean that we will like where it balances at, that is why we need to continue studying our effects. I just think that we as a society tend to assume doomsday type of effects because it gets more attention.

  • http://N/A Anonymous

    Haha, this article made me laugh. “Carbon offsets” are by far the laziest and most idiotic form of “environmentalism” there is. They are a joke at best. I’m also rather curious as to how much pollution gets spewed into the atmosphere during the creation of a massive device such as this? Probably quite a lot when you consider it contains 40k+ LEDs. What happens when those LEDs burn out, do they get put in say…a landfill? Who is gonna offset the junk this company dumps into said landfill? Nobody? The best advice I can give to people is to not let corporate hypocrites scare them with their attempts to incorporate fear into their advertising schemes. Plus I’ve honestly gotta say that this environmental scare crap is nothing new at all. Hypocritical lazy “green” people have been tooting their horns for *years* about all sorts of ridiculous theories concerning pollution. Also take note how none of them ever seem to agree with one another? You’ve got certain groups that have claimed pollution will lead to another ice age and some saying that it will lead to immense heat and *then* an ice age. Even a cursory glance at the science behind such principles shows that it takes astronomical amounts of time for the Earth to suffer so drastically from climate change (shy of those changes brought on by global cataclysms like super volcano eruptions and asteroid collisions.) And to be honest, I’m sick of the attitude that environmentalists have. They act as though we who “pollute” are evil. I hate to inform them of this, but it is *impossible for humanity to exist without polluting*. There, I said it, if you live you pollute. It’s really as simple as that. Why don’t “green” idiotic hippies go yell hypocritical rubbish at cows? Cows do afterall deposit more than their fair share of methane into the atmosphere? Basically, I’m not saying it’s alright to pollute without putting considerable thought into our actions, but it’s thoroughly impossible to occupy a planet and take absolutely nothing from it. Even the self-righteous hipsters are polluting and taking away from what they call “mother earth, etc…” Anyway, I’ll end this rant with a fun fact for all you idiots who have gone green because it’s a hip new way to “care”: No matter what you or anyone else does, every single living creature on this planet is going to die. Mass extinction has happened before without the aid of conscious mediators and somehow or another it is going to happen again. The Earth dies in the end, it’s inevitable. Being mindful of our pollution is not going to prevent the planet’s inevitable demise. Nothing will.

  • shaking head

    In british columbia canada the pine beetle is quickly killing the forests. It was estimated that last year the beetle wood produced more carbon than all of the cars in north america because the trees have died and are starting to rot. Humans actually have litle effect on climate change.

  • Jay Alt

    Entomologists studying pine beetles have found the plague of pests is caused by winter warmth that accelerates their life cycle. It is one of 29,000 data sets of biological indicators in the UN 2007 IPCC report, 90% of which reflect the warming climate. But that’s just a small slice of a report that establishes that human beings, not Mother Nature, are responsible for turning up the heat.

    Doug, the UN report says a 9 degree F temperature rise is expected by 2100 if we fail to take action.
    That irresponsible course would cause terrible hardships for our descendants.

    If we act boldly now, stop the rise in carbon emissions by 2015 and begin steep reductions, there is still time to avoid the worst of the problems. If we don’t, we will be perfectly fine. But also long dead and universally despised.

  • Zen

    Jay, the pine beetles life cycle is nothing new and it does not prove that humans are a significant cause of the recent warming nor does it prove that humans will cause the temperature to rise by roughly 9 degrees by 2100. These are models that predict this rise and their predictions are not reflected by observable temperature trends…..which have been manipulated by the IPCC to eliminate the little ice age and the midevil warm period. The models are controlled by the IPCC and all of them have a climate feedback factor of close to +1. The observable climate feedback factor is closer to -1. (Positive feedback increases temperature while a negative factor decreases temperature) So Jay your are being duped by junk science.

  • Doug

    I think Jay needs to read Bjorn Lomborg. A man of the left and a believer in man made global warming (I’m still not so convinced.) His books go over the facts of “Global Warming” very scientifically, and even he says that the whole global warming thing is over done.
    Try “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It.” Not to mention “The Politically Incorrect Guide To Science.” And for fans of science fiction based on real science: there’s always the late great Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear.” For once it’s not either the big bad corporations or the evil right-wing government that’s the bad guys (two of the most over used “bad guys” in book and film.)



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