Climate Emergency Day: Why The World Will Fall Silent At 5pm Today

We now have less than seven years to keep global warming below 1.5°C, say campaigners.
Time is ticking to prevent a climate emergency.
Ben Wolf
Time is ticking to prevent a climate emergency.

In the week that saw Europe and the US reach boiling point (quite literally), Friday July 22 marks a major moment in the countdown to keeping global warming at bay.

At 5pm, the ‘Climate Clock’ – which counts down the number of years until it’s no longer possible to keep global warming below 1.5°C – will chime to mark less than seven years until we reach an irreversible global warming deadline.

To mark the sombre moment, the date has now been named Climate Emergency Day and people across the world are being urged to take part in a minute’s silence to ponder how they can make changes to protect the planet.

Data shows the earth’s temperature has risen by 0.08°C per decade since 1880 – with more and more emergency climate events taking place globally.

On UK soil specifically, July 19 saw London Fire Brigade record its busiest day since the Second World War as a result of the outbreak of hundreds of fires amid record-breaking temperatures.

While we can all play our part to tackle climate change, ultimately the buck stops with the world’s leaders to step in – and fast.

As Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss battle it out to become the next UK prime minister, some (including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan) have accused the candidates of ignoring climate issues in their leadership pledges.

And if we go off voting histories, it doesn’t bode well. Sunak has almost always voted against measures to prevent climate change, while Truss has voted both for and against measures to prevent climate change (but mostly against).

To mark the first Climate Emergency Day, a sombre ceremony will take place at the foot of the actual Climate Clock in Union Square, New York, where people are encouraged to wear all black clothing and bring drums.

In the UK, London’s Design Museum will capture the moment the clock ticks over.

One of the co-founders of the Climate Clock, Gan Golan, says the day is an “urgent reminder that our best window of action closes as each second, hour, day, and year ticks by”.

The deadline on the clock is based on a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), where climate scientists attempted to quantify a remaining global carbon budget that could feasibly keep global warming below 1.5ºC.

The deadline shows how long we have left until this carbon budget runs out, given the amount of carbon we continue to emit globally. When it hits zero, the likelihood of devastating global climate impacts will be very high.

Golan said Climate Emergency Day “presents us with an opportunity to remind those in power that we must ... make a necessary, bold, and rapid transition away from fossil fuels in order to avert climate catastrophe”.

He demanded world leaders seek sustainable solutions urgently by investing in renewable energy, honouring Indigenous land sovereignty, and fully-fund the Green Climate Fund [the world’s largest dedicated fund for climate action].”

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