Signs of Global Warming: Think global, message local

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If record-setting heat waves and thousand-year floods aren’t enough visual proof of global warming, maybe art will help. The Franklin Institute, in collaboration with local partners, is using artful signage to spread the word about climate change — and what Philadelphia neighborhoods are doing to minimize its impact. 

The Franklin Institute is part of the four-city Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), created by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Each city’s approach is different; Philadelphia’s team took a place-based approach, with signs highlighting climate issues and the surrounding neighborhood’s response to them.

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A tally of days over 90 degrees is placed near cooling community gardens. Warnings about increasing heavy downpours are erected by CUSP next to rain barrels installed by residents with help from New Kensington Community Development Corporation. The newest and largest piece, a mural at the Huntingdon SEPTA station, was unveiled just a month ago. It highlights SEPTA’s wayside energy storage project, in which the agency is capturing, storing and reusing energy created by braking trains.

CUSP Senior Program Manager Richard Johnson says he hopes interested neighborhoods and community-based organizations will reach out at phillycusp.org to become part of the CUSP initiative.

“It’s not about gloom and doom,” he says. “We’re empowering people. We’re really excited about how the community is responding, and the science behind why these responses work.”

Story by Molly O'Neill