Iceland Holds Funeral for its First Glacier Lost to the Climate Crisis

“What we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis.” Iceland is mourning the loss of Okjökull, its first glacier lost to climate change.

Officials hold funeral

Iceland honored the passing of Okjokull — its first glacier lost to climate change. It was about 700 years old. Okjokull, which is now a patch of ice atop a volcano, was declared dead in 2014, when it ceased movement. Hundreds of scientists, journalists and members of the public trekked to the site in western Iceland. At the ceremony in western Iceland a plaque was mounted on a bare rock, reading “A letter to the future.”

"I hope that this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world because what we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis. Prime Minister of Iceland. A big part of our renewable energies is produced in the glacial rivers, producing electricity from the glacial rivers so I think we also need to be conscious of that. That that’s why the disappearance of the glaciers will affect our energy system." - Katrin Jakobsdottir. "By writing in something eternal material, that makes you think differently and actually normally in our lives, we don’t think that what we are doing has consequences or will be somewhere in 200 years." - Andri Snær Magnason. Icelandic writer and author of text on the plaque.

The conversation about climate change can be abstract, with many dire statistics and sophisticated scientific models that can feel incomprehensible. Glaciologists stripped Okjokull of its glacier status in 2014, a first for Iceland. In 1890, the glacier ice covered 6.2 square miles but by 2012, it measured just 7.5 square feet, according to a report from the University of Iceland from 2017. To have the status of a glacier, the mass of ice and snow must be thick enough to move by its own weight. For that to happen the mass must be approximately 130 to 165 feet thick.