The Climate Countdown: Is the NYC Metronome Enough to Make a Change?


Amelia Pollicino

A visualization of the idea that the earth is running out of time to solve its climate crisis.

A countdown clock was recently unveiled in the heart of Manhattan in Union Square. The countdown clock, officially named Metronome, is a live countdown on display for the public that is counting down the days until scientists predict it will be too late to prevent the effects of climate change. The project was designed by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd to bring direct attention from a broad audience to the climate change crisis. According to The New York Times, Golan said he came up with the idea to publicly illustrate the urgency of combating climate change about two years ago, shortly after his daughter was born ( 

Environmental activism has been brought to the forefront of political discussions. Countless ideas, laws, regulations, and ‘solutions’ have been debated by both the public and politicians. However, even though it is a constant topic of discussion, significant concrete change is yet to be made. Is the countdown clock genuinely useful, or is it just another example of performative activism that will induce hopeless panic without offering a solution? 

There is no doubt that awareness of the climate crisis has been increasing rapidly in recent years. In today’s political debates, how to address it has been discussed in numerous ways. However, it seems as if no significant legislative change has been made to the extent that scientists say is needed. According to researchers at NASA and as posted on the NASA climate website (, “Because climate change is a truly global, complex problem with economic, social, political and moral ramifications, the solution will require both a globally-coordinated response (such as international policies and agreements between countries, a push to cleaner forms of energy) and local efforts on the city- and regional-level.” In the United States, socially, it has been pushed onto the public, particularly the working class, that they are responsible entirely for the climate crisis. With this, the movement to recycle has become popular. However, new studies, such as the one referenced above, are coming out that prove that individuals’ work is not going to be enough to combat the crisis. 

The unveiling of Metronome has undoubtedly sparked a conversation about climate change and how it is being addressed in the United States. However, some believe that it is yet another empty demonstration that does nothing more than fuel anxiety without offering a solution. While conversations are essential, substantial change is needed to make a difference. Access to education and tangible ways for people to make a change are necessary in moving toward a solution.  

Whether legislative change is the answer to these environmental problems has also been a topic of debate. Some believe that it is primarily the government’s job to create concrete change. Kate Anemone, a senior and former vice president of the Environmental Club, commented, “Scientists and environmentalists have made it clear that we must cut our carbon emissions. Humanity is at the point where making the necessary cuts requires aggressive economic transformation. An ideal response from the government would include increasing green energy funding and a decrease in funding for fossil fuel companies. The current administrations have cut back on environmental regulations and funded fossil fuel companies. These government actions have put humanity closer to the point of no return.” 

Others believe that it is in the hands of the individual. AP Environmental Science Teacher Susanne Mueller voiced her opinion: “To me, the climate clock is a piece of artwork. The creators may have had the intention of bringing awareness to the world’s climate crisis, but awareness is not enough. There needs to be action. Relying on governments to regulate us into sustainability will not work. It is not the government’s job to take care of us. We need to be innovative in dealing with old problems in new ways. We need to be willing to significantly change our lifestyle from the transportation we use, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the energy we consume. If we all are not willing to make those changes, we will continue to go down the path of unsustainability.” 

From another angle, it is more unclear whose responsibility it is to combat climate change. Manaka Ogura, a junior, does not believe that it is up to any one person. She said, “As individuals, we have the power to change our everyday routines to environmentally friendly alternatives and such. Also, by contributing to the active protests and news of climate change, our voices will be heard collectively. On the other hand, government officials have actual power. They can change the way things are. We have seen it in the plastic bag ban. However, this law would not have been enforced if not for the consistent voices of the American people.”  

Metronome has been an essential step in creating conversations centered around the climate. By placing it in a large public place, it will reach many. These discussions and conversations are incredibly crucial to making a change. However, these discussions are not going to be enough as time continues. Real, concrete change needs to be made, or else the Metronome is simply another empty display. Whether it be at a governmental or individual level, there is one overarching theme: change needs to be made before the clock strikes zero.