TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Hanging from delicate metal wires in the atrium of Tokyo’s main science museum, a 15-tonne simulation of planet Earth offers a shocking warning about the effects of global warming.
One million light-emitting diodes implanted on the surface of the 6.5 meter (21.3 feet) wide Geo-Cosmos — the world’s only giant spherical display ball — recreate the current state of the blue seas and changing cloud cover from data updated regularly from five weather satellites orbiting above the earth.
Twice a day, the blue planet turns red to show how global temperatures have risen from 1901 to forecasts of the year 2100, as staff at the National Museum for Emerging Science and Technology, or Miraikan, explain the cause and effects of global warming.
“This is what scientists have predicted,” said Yasushi Ikebe, science coordinator at the museum.
“This simulation is based on data collected by researchers in the field and minutely calculated to create this shocking picture of our future,” he added. “It will be too late to do anything once we start really seeing the effects.”
Japan is the world’s fifth largest polluter and like other industrialized nations, it is under pressure to act against global warming.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently warned that climate change posed as much danger to the world as war, adding that he would make it the focus of talks with industrialized nations including the United States and Japan.
In the museum, what starts off as a dark globe reflecting the temperatures in 1901 begins flickering pink on various continents and then gradually brightens until the whole surface of the earth is glowing red, yellow and white — a projection of 2100.
The north and south poles are especially bright, illustrating the greatest change in temperatures.
Museum staff say the warning — much of it very technical — is often lost on children who comprise the majority of visitors.
But the 20 minute Japanese-language demonstration, packed with explanations of carbon dioxide emissions and technical terms, has made its mark on some older visitors.
“I don’t think I fully appreciated the sense of crisis over global warming, but a visually comprehensive display like this has given me food for thought and motivated me to do something starting tomorrow,” said 23-year-old Shinya Sasaki.
Global warming also took its toll on Japan this winter. Forecasts said the season was the warmest on record and snowfall was well below average.
The museum is hoping to expand the exhibit to include more warnings on global warming. From June, it will open an extra exhibit on climate change and resource depletion in Asia.
Yet they also hope to provide a message of hope: the exhibition will concentrate on exploring scientific and technological solutions to these threats.
“We need to accept that as long as we live on this earth, there will be climate change,” Sasaki said. “I think what we need to do as society as a whole is find ways to live along in harmony with this environment.”
The museum was set up in 2001 by the Japanese government’s Science and Technology Agency and is led by astronaut Mamoru Mohri — one of a few Japanese who has seen how Earth looks like from space.