A victim of climate change is to be given a memorial to commemorate its loss in Iceland. RIP former glacier Okjökull in Borgarfjörður ( -2014), which scientists say is the country’s first confirmed glacier to disappear thanks to the climate crisis.
Okjökull, or Ok, as it was known, is the first glacier in Iceland to lose its title because of global warming, back in 2014. The site of the former glacier will be remembered with a plaque to be installed next month by scientists from Rice University.
“This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world,” Cymene Howe, producer of the 2018 film Not Ok documenting the glacier’s demise, said. “By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire.”
The plaque reads:
“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier.
In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path.
This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done
Only you know if we did it.”
The plaque also commemorates 2019 as the year the world first hit 415ppm CO2 levels, which it did back in May.
“[W]e wanted to create a lasting memorial to Ok, a small glacier that has a big story to tell,” Dominic Boyer, the film’s co-producer, said. “Ok was the first named Icelandic glacier to melt because of how humans have transformed the planet’s atmosphere. Its fate will be shared by all of Iceland’s glaciers unless we act now to radically curtail greenhouse gas emissions.”
According to Boyer and Howe, scientists fear Iceland’s 400-odd glaciers could be gone by 2200. Not only are glaciers the largest freshwater reserves on Earth, but they are invaluable for providing insights into Earth’s atmosphere, past and present.
The Northern Hemisphere is currently bearing the brunt of the global climate crisis, with the Arctic warming twice as fast as other parts of the world. This summer, temperatures have broken records around the globe, while NOAA has reported record-breaking decreases of Arctic sea ice coverage. Many parts of the Arctic, from Siberia to Greenland, are currently experiencing unprecedented wildfires. The northernmost permanent human settlement on Earth, the town of Alert in Canada, just recorded its hottest temperature ever, a full 15°C higher than the average high temperature for this time of year, while Anchorage in Alaska also broke its record, experiencing 32°C (90°F) on July 4, beating its previous record of 29°C (85°F) back in 1969.
“One of our Icelandic colleagues put it very wisely when he said, ‘Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,’” Howe said. “With this memorial, we want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to collectively respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change. For Ok glacier it is already too late; it is now what scientists call ‘dead ice.’”
This may be the first memorial to a lost glacier, but it is unlikely it will be the last.