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3.6 Trillion and Counting: New Billboard Clocks Emissions

Eight stories above midtown Manhattan, a new billboard has begun counting how much, and how fast, greenhouse gases are entering the atmosphere. Climate Central reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, a reminder of the world's carbon footprint. A counter to do just that was unveiled in New York City this month. Our story about it is reported by Heidi Cullen, a climatologist and correspondent for Climate Central, a nonpartisan research group for journalists and scientists.

  • HEIDI CULLEN, Climate Central:

    Kevin Parker is a banker on a mission. He heads asset management for Deutsche Bank, and they paid for this, a carbon counter. It's a display that gives an up-to-the-minute reading of how much and how fast we're emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, gases which most scientists agree are warming the planet.

    According to the scientists who did the math for the counter, human-created carbon dioxide is entering the atmosphere at the rate of 800 metric tons a second. The number on the billboard now tops 3.6 trillion.

    At today's rate of emissions, we could reach 4.4 trillion within 40 years. That number, most scientists say, would constitute dangerous human interference in the climate system: increased storms, drought, species extinction, and sea level rise.

    The counter was months in the making, and Deutsche Bank spent an estimate of over $1 million initially and would shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the prime billboard space alone.

    The carbon counter sits roughly eight stories high and just a block away is Madison Square Garden and Macy's. It is visible from nearly every street corner here, where about 500,000 commuters pass every day.

    But why exactly is Deutsche Bank investing so much money and energy in this enterprise? And what impact, if any, will it have on the public?

    Mark Fulton is the head of climate change investment for the bank.