Iceland will mark first glacier lost to climate change with a ‘letter to the future’ memorial

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Iceland lost its first glacier, called Ok, as a direct result of climate change – and the nation has marked the regretful moment with an emotional plaque. 

It carries a stern warning to the current generation, as well as all to follow, as the worsening climate emergency threatens to destroy more of Earth’s precious spots. 

The plaque will be placed where the glacier once was, before it disappeared forever in 2014.  

  

‘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,’ it reads. 

‘This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.’

It is then followed by the date of August 2019 and the current CO2 levels in the atmosphere – 415 parts per million (ppm).  

It is written in both English and Icelandic, under the words ‘A letter to the future’.

Icelanders call their nation the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ for its other-worldly landscape of volcanoes and glaciers but warming global temperatures threaten the existence of the latter.  

‘This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world,’ said Cymene Howe, and anthropologist with Houston-based Rice University who made a 2018 documentary about the glacier’s disappearance.

‘By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire.’

The shrinking of the glaciers heralds profound shifts in Iceland’s weather patterns, water flows, flora and fauna, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Volcanic activity is expected to increase, as the melting of glaciers relieves pressure on volcanic systems, with the eruption of glacier-tipped volcanoes causing major melting of ice.

This could lead to floods of historic proportions, known as ‘jökulhlaups’ which could alter landscapes, devastate vegetation and threaten lives and infrastructure, scientists have warned.

Rice University said its researchers would join key local figures and members of the public for the memorial’s installation on August 18.

‘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,’ said Howe in a statement announcing the memorial.

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