When an aircraft fails, the black box is there to help explain why. With the world in trouble from climate change, a group of Australians is borrowing the same idea to show future generations the struggles of a warming planet.
Jutting out of a plain in the Australian state of Tasmania will be “Earth’s Black Box” — a 33-foot-long steel structure, which its creators say is indestructible, designed to aggregate and store climate change news and research in real time. Information collected using an algorithm will include “Earth 500,” a data set of 500 metrics related to the planet and humanity’s health. It will also include contextual material relating to climate change, including news headlines and major political speeches, its makers say.
The structure will house storage drives, powered by solar panels, that are continuously downloading information from the internet. Its location on the west coast of Tasmania was chosen for its “geographical and political stability.”
The box is slated to be completed in early 2022, according to its website.
“Unless we dramatically transform our way of life, climate change and other man-made perils will cause our civilization to crash,” the creators wrote.
That’s where Earth’s Black Box comes in. The steel encasement is meant to hold a record of “every step we take toward this catastrophe,” and will serve to provide “an unbiased account” of how humans caused the climate crisis.
“How the story ends is completely up to us,” the box’s creators wrote. “One thing is certain, your actions, inactions, and interactions are now being recorded.”
Record-keeping began with COP26 in Glasgow last month, collecting discussions and commitments made by global leaders at the U.N. climate conference, according to an Earth’s Black Box news release. Once the box is activated, the databank will be accessible online.
The project was created as a collaboration between researchers from the University of Tasmania, artists from the Glue Society collective and members of marketing communications company Clemenger BBDO, among others.
“Obviously it’s really a powerful concept when you say to someone, ‘Earth’s got a black box’. Because they’re like, ‘Why does it need a black box?'” Jim Curtis, executive creative director of Clemenger BBDO, told ABC Science.
After days of talks at COP26, leaders left with a deal that failed to offer the transformative breakthrough scientists have said is necessary to avoid disastrous planetary warming.
The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that, under the current scenarios, the planet would likely hit the 1.5 Celsius threshold by 2040.