Earth’s Black Box will document humanity’s climate change actions in an “indestructible” structure and provide information to future civilisation should a climate catastrophe destroys ours. 

What is Happening? 

Australian scientists and artists are working on building “Earth’s Black Box” to record humanity’s handling of the climate crisis and hold world leaders accountable for their climate change actions. 

Not unlike an airplane’s black box, which records a flight’s path and can discover the cause behind a crash or accident, Earth’s Black Box is a device aimed to document every step humanity has taken towards an impending climate catastrophe, and benefit a future civilisation should the worst happen to ours. 

“If the worst is to happen and as a civilisation we crash as a result of climate change, this indestructible box will be there and will record every detail of that,” said Jim Curtis, the executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO, which came up with the initial idea for the black box.

The 10m x 4m x 3m steel structure will be built on the remote west coast of Tasmania in Australia, which is chosen for its geopolitical and geological stability. Other locales on the shortlist include Malta, Norway and Qatar, before the creators settled in Tasmania. 

A 7.5cm-thick steel will make up most of the recording device’s housing structure, filled with storage drives with internet connectivity and powered by solar and thermal energy. The black box is also designed to withstand natural disasters and “built to outlive us all”. 

Upon completion, the black box will regularly download scientific data – both historical and the latest – including land and sea temperatures, ocean acidification, atmospheric CO2, species extinction, land-use changes, growing rates of the human population, and energy consumption. The device will also collect any climate-change-related material from the internet to provide context, varying from newspaper headlines and social media talking points to news from key events such as UN climate conferences. 

The world currently remains on track for 2.4C global warming above pre-industrial levels, according to the watchdog Climate Action Tracker, despite countries’ new climate pledges made before and during the COP26 climate summit in November. The creators behind the black box say that the information recorded would help hold world leaders accountable. 

“[The black box] is there to hold leaders to account — to make sure their action or inaction is recorded,” said Curtis. “So whoever’s left, or whoever finds it afterwards, learns from our mistakes.”

While the housing structure of the device is scheduled for construction next year, the hard drives have already begun recording since the start of COP26. Developers estimate that the black box will have enough capacity to store data for the next 30 to 50 years.

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