Deutsche Bank Launches Carbon Counter

by |June 19, 2009

Deutsche Bank launched the first real-time carbon counter Thursday morning, taking advantage of the unusually rainy weather to underscore the importance of communicating climate change awareness. Located across 33rd street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, the Carbon Counter displays the running total of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Deutsche Bank Asset Management (DeAM) has long been a participant in the Earth Institute’s Global Roundtable on Climate Change, chaired by Jeff Sachs, and we are thrilled at their engagement in a new phase of roundtable and taskforce activities.

EI Director Jeff Sachs speaking at the launch

The Columbia Climate Center is also excited to be collaborating with them on other climate-related projects, given DeAM’s strong commitment to curbing carbon emissions, as seen by the work of their team of Climate Change Advisors and the $4 billion worth of assets they have invested in technologies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

During the switch-on event, Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs – after lamenting his choice of a light grey suit in the unfortunate weather – highlighted the crucial role that financial institutions will play as enablers of new technologies, as participants in the new carbon markets, and as thought and civic leaders.

DeAM worked with scientists at MIT, who have developed the model to provide a second-by-second projection of greenhouse gas totals.  The model uses data from a range of sources – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA – to supply the counter with accurate and current information.

The current estimate of long-lived greenhouse gases is at approximately 3.6 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, with an expected increase of 2 billion tons every month. The Counter, with its 40,000 scrolling LEDs, makes this growth quite clear for all pedestrians in the Penn Station area (quite a few). The display itself – carbon projections aside – is a lesson in climate change awareness, as it uses low-risk carbon credits to mitigate its own energy usage.

Deutsche Bank's new carbon counter, located in Midtown

The Counter represents a new tactic in communication. By consolidating growth patterns into a single number, the Counter conveys the progress (or lack thereof) of slowing this increase in a simple and accessible way. Rather than overloading the viewer with information or numbing them with apocalyptic projections, the Carbon Counter simply presents a number and urges awareness. Social science research done at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions and elsewhere suggests such approaches might send a more powerful message.

The Counter can be viewed at any point during the day on their website and can be followed on Twitter. A widget is also available for downloading.

What do you think about the Counter? Does it inspire you to consider the growth and role of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?

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