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MIT students display ‘climate clock’ outside Green Building in Cambridge

The climate clock, built by a team of students in the MIT D-Lab, will be on display through April 30.
The climate clock, built by a team of students in the MIT D-Lab, will be on display through April 30.MIT D-Lab / Youtube

To celebrate Earth Day, a group of students and lecturers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unveiled a so-called climate clock, a visual projection of key data in the fight against climate change, on the tallest building on campus.

The clock shows “vital information about the state of our planet — and the pathway to saving it” on the south side of the aptly-named Green Building, a 21-story academic and research facility.

The display spans the width of the building’s entryway. The display highlights goals of the fight against climate change, such as limiting the annual temperature increases to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

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“Our point is not to spell doom; it’s to inspire action,” the team wrote on the MIT D-Lab website.

Passersby can view the climate clock every day from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. through April 30.

Eight months ago, the world’s first climate clock in the United States was unveiled in New York City by artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan. But six months before that, the team at the MIT D-Lab was already at work on their own project.

In the spring, MIT D-Lab lecturers Susan Murcott and Julie Simpson, along with their team of students, were formulating the blueprints for their clock, with the goal of “displaying graphs of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, such as the NOAA CO2 animation, on a tall MIT building.”

Murcott didn’t know about the New York City project. Ironically, she was inspired by the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square — a highly visible advertisement for a fuel industry company.

The climate clock in New York City, known as "Metronome," garnered the country's attention in September 2020 as the first United States-based clock of its kind.
The climate clock in New York City, known as "Metronome," garnered the country's attention in September 2020 as the first United States-based clock of its kind.Jeenah Moon/NYT

A group that included MIT undergraduate students, a MIT Media Lab student, and a Harvard Law School student, the MIT Climate Clock team combined their skills and specialties to conduct research on the climate data and on how to build a climate clock.

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Once the data was gathered, the group settled on the Green Building because of its prominence . It also houses the school’s department of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, the group wrote.

After conquering several obstacles with the projection, including securing permission to display the clock on the building, finding a projector powerful enough, and planning around the building’s scheduled renovations, the climate clock was a success.

“This project has given us hope in a dark time,” the group wrote.

Matt Berg can be reached at matthew.berg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.