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Scientists Bid Farewell to First Icelandic GlacierLost to Climate Change

A single hot day won’t make a glacier melt. That’s just the weather. Long-term climate changes that warm the area over years, though, can make glaciers melt more quickly.


By Harmeet Kaur, CNN


Scientists say they are bidding farewell to Okjökull, the first Icelandic glacier lost to climate change, in a funeral of sorts.

Researchers will gather Sunday in Borgarfjörður, Iceland, to memorialize Okjökull, known as Ok for short, after it lost its status as a glacier in 2014. The inscription, titled “A letter to the future,” on the monument paints a bleak picture.

“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 know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” the plaque reads in English and Icelandic.

The memorial plaque for Iceland’s Okjökull glacier contains a dire warning.

The Marshall Island nation is a grouping of 1,200 islands scattered across 750,000 square miles of ocean. Sea level rise will make them uninhabitable in the coming decades

From the ice sheet in Greenland to the towering glaciers in West Antarctica, Earth’s enormous masses of ice are melting fast. And though sea levels have risen and fallen throughout history, scientists say it’s never happened at a rate this fast.

If glaciers continue to melt at the current rapid rate, it will pose a number of hazards for the planet, geologists say. Here are some of the potential hazards:

It can displace people

By 2100, up to 2 billion people — or about a fifth of the world’s population — could be displaced from their homes and forced to move inland because of rising ocean levels, according to a 2017 study.

Bangladesh is particularly at risk. About 15 million people in the country could become climate refugees if sea levels rise 1 meter, or about 3 feet. And more than 10% of the country would be underwater.

Some of the people who are displaced might not have anywhere to go. They’re not protected by international laws, so industrialized countries aren’t legally obligated to grant them asylum.

It can put some islands underwater

If sea levels continue to rise at a rapid rate, some remote island nations would be at risk of disappearing, including Tuvalu, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands.

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