Change Is In the Air

In one of An Inconvenient Truth’s crucial scenes, Al Gore chases the earth’s rising carbon-dioxide levels in a mechanical lift. Visitors to Climate Change: The Threat to Life and a New Energy Future, at the American Museum of Natural History, will feel similarly stretched. The first exhibit, a 400-year time line of industrial milestones, is bisected by a red LED strip that follows the increase in CO2, beginning below knee level and ending high overhead. “We don’t blame anyone,” says Edmond Mathez, a cocurator. “It’s simply because of our innovation and inventiveness that we’ve gotten to where we are today. This puts a historical dimension on the problem that is easy to forget.”

The museum’s second environmentally focused show this year, Climate Change is packed with data on everything from urban flood­ing to ocean acidification, and it offers plenty of suggestions for how individuals can make a difference. But the resounding message is that society as a whole must act to build an “energy portfolio” of alternative technologies to slow global warming before the damage is irreversible. That red line is already at its highest point in 800,000 years.

On view through August 16, 2009. Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, (212) 769-5100,