190819 okjokull
Photos provided by Nasa show the shrinking of the Okjokull glacier on the Ok volcano in west-central Iceland. A geological map from 1901 estimated Okjökull spanned an area of about 38sqkm. In 1978, the glacier was 3 sqkm. In 2019, less than 1 sqkm remains. Image Credit: AP

In the middle of Iceland on a rugged and remote landscape, some 100 people gathered on Sunday for a funeral of sorts. It was there, on what used to be Okjokull glacier, the mourners gathered to remember the loss of that glacier, lost forever due to climate change. There will be many such gatherings in the future as we continue to warm our planet and forever change and impact it as never before.

This is a summer of extremes, where there are severe floods, prolonged heatwaves, heavier monsoon rains, more dangerous wildfires across the northern tundra — all natural events whose extremes are fuelled by rising temperatures directly caused by our prolonged love affair with fossil fuels and activities that adversely impact the planet.

All of the empirical, scientific and anecdotal evidences show unequivocally that our planet is warming at alarming levels — and that we are to blame. Despite this dossier of evidence that grows daily, there are those that continue to deny climate change. And despite the intent by governments globally to reduce our carbon footprints and to try and reverse — or at least halt — global warming, actions do not match words of intent.

Climate conferences in New York and Chile

The leadership and government of the UAE is a global leader when it comes to adopting renewable energy, actively engaging the citizenry in measures to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and encouraging measures for every individual to make informed choices to positively impact the environment and commit to the fight against climate change. Collectively, everything is being done in the UAE to reverse the looming tipping point — one manifested by the disappearance of the Okjokull glacier.

As the mourners for Okjokull gathered, 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg was somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on board a solar-powered yacht sailing to New York to bring her crusade on saving our planet from global warming. Yes, there are those who might view her campaign as naive or a publicity stunt, but the reality is that her message needs to be heard: We need to change our habits now to save this planet — and time is running out.

Thunberg is hoping to cross the Atlantic to appear at two crucial global gatherings — the Climate Action summit in New York on September 21-23 and the United Nations climate conference in Santiago, Chile, in early December. And while in New York, Thunberg will also try and lobby world leaders in attendance at the UN General Assembly. Her message is pressing, and the time for change is now.