A project by
Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing
marking the UN IPCC’s 5th Assessment
Report on Climate Change

26–29 October 2014
City Hall Square, Copenhagen
Ice Watch is over - keep watching over the ice
The afterlife of Ice Watch in 30 seconds
Scientists from the UN IPCC gathered behind Ice Watch, City Hall Square, Copenhagen
Today we have access to reliable data that shed light on what will happen and what can be done. Let’s appreciate this unique opportunity – we, the world, must and can act now.
Let’s transform climate knowledge into climate action.

Olafur Eliasson, artist, and Minik Rosing, geologist
Video: Underground Channel - Geocenter Danmark
Melting ice does not sleep at night
The opening of Ice Watch, City Hall Square, Copenhagen
Twelve large blocks of ice, cast off from the Greenland ice sheet, were collected from a fjord outside Nuuk and shipped to Copenhagen, where they were presented in a clock formation in City Hall Square, from 26 to 29 October 2014, to mark the publication of the UN IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change. The pieces of ice, which had not completely melted by the end of the three days, were donated to schools around Copenhagen.

Ice Watch was a physical wake-up call: the ice is melting. Sea levels are rising. Temperatures are increasing. Climate change is a fact.
Inland ice from Greenland, City Hall Square, Copenhagen
Ice Watch in 50 seconds
We urgently need public engagement to reset the dialogue on climate change, which is being led by politicians and media right now. We have to push past the stalemate of governments dictating how and when they will address climate change because that is clearly too little and too late.

We must recognise that the public is not a bland mass of people but groupings of individuals. Individuals are moved to make decisions by so many things: faith, love, hope for a better future, risk minimisation, inspiration, sense of belonging. This is a conversation that is NOT owned by governments, politicians, scientists, NGOs, and the media. This is owned by all of us, and we have to become comfortable in speaking this language.

Art to me is our expression of being in love with (and fearing for) our world – our efforts to capture and predict the patterns, colours, movement we see around us. Most of us are terrified by climate change and frozen by the confusion of what we should do to address this issue. Artists transform that energy into a determined roar, urging us all to play our part in stopping climate change with what we have, no matter where we are. Ultimately, we need hope and encouragement to make change happen, and art is a beacon of light.

Dekila Chungyalpa, environmental strategist
Installing inland ice from Greenland, City Hall Square, Copenhagen
Harvesting ice floating in Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland
Action on climate change requires more than information, provided by IPCC reports and other sources. It also requires motivation; motivation to change our life styles, building codes, travel habits, food choices, energy sources, economic and social indicators, political processes, and much more. Change is full of uncertainties, hence scary, and also effortful and costly, so there needs to be strong reason for it. Climate activists have so far typically chosen to motivate with fear and guilt, using the forecasts provided by climate scientists and climate change impact modelers to paint dooms-day scenarios of a future world of business-as-usual. While negative messaging is extremely effective in getting people’s attention, it is terrible at holding their attention for extended periods of time. Fear and guilt work in situations that provide specific and effective means to reduce the risk or alleviate the guilt, precisely because people find the negative emotion very aversive and will try to bring it to an end. When it comes to climate change risks, there are no silver bullets. Sustained action and change on multiple fronts by many parties over extended periods of time ('silver buckshot') is what is needed, and in the absence of a quick fix, negative messaging invites people to tune out, switch channels, or engage in wishful denial. The challenge in starting a local, national, and international dialogue about climate change and climate change solutions is to find positive motivators, hope for progress towards a better future, without projecting unrealistic confidence and distorting the magnitude of the challenge ahead of us.

Elke Weber, professor of psychology
Ice is a wonderful, peculiar substance. Just as the progress of our civilisations has been tied to the coming and going of the ice ages, so, too, are our future destiny and the destiny of ice tied together. Through our actions we are now close to terminating the period of stable climate that served as the condition for civilisations to arise and flourish. Science and technology have made it possible for us to destabilise Earth’s climate, but now that we understand the mechanisms behind these changes, we have the power to prevent them from growing.

Minik Rosing, geologist
Towing ice through Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland
NASA satellite imagery of the melting of the Arctic sea ice
Loading ice at Nuuk Port and Harbour, Greenland
How are we supposed to react when faced with a piece of news like this one from Le Monde on Tuesday, May 7, 2013: 'At Mauna Loa, on Friday May 3, the concentration of CO2 was reaching 399.29 ppm?' How can we absorb the odd novelty of the headline: 'The amount of CO2 in the air is the highest it has been for more than 2.5 million years — the threshold of 400 ppm of CO2, the main agent of global warming, is going to be crossed this year?' Such an extension of both the span of deep history and the impact of our own collective action is made even more troubling by the subtitle in the same article, which quietly states: 'The maximum permissible CO2 limit was crossed just before 1990.' So not only do we have to swallow the news that our very recent development has modified a state of affairs that is vastly older that the very existence of the human race, but we have also to absorb the disturbing fact that the drama has been completed and that the main revolutionary event is behind us, since we have already crossed a few of the nine 'planetary boundaries' considered by some scientists as the ultimate barrier not to overstep! I think that it is easy for us to agree that, in modernism, people are not equipped with the mental and emotional repertoire to deal with such a vast scale of events; that they have difficulty submitting to such a rapid acceleration for which, in addition, they are supposed to feel responsible while, in the meantime, this call for action has none of the traits of their older revolutionary dreams. How can we simultaneously be part of such a long history, have such an important influence, and yet be so late in realising what has happened and so utterly impotent in our attempts to fix it?

Bruno Latour, sociologist, from 'Agency at the time of the Anthropocene', 2014
In The Ecological Thought I coined the term hyperobjects to refer to things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans. A hyperobject could be a black hole. A hyperobject could be the biosphere, or the Solar System. A hyperobject could be the very long-lasting product of direct human manufacture, such as Styrofoam or plastic bags, or the sum of all the whirring machinery of capitalism.

Hyperobjects are nonlocal; in other words, any 'local manifestation' of a hyperobject is not directly the hyperobject. One only sees pieces of the hyperobject at any one moment.

While hyperobjects are near, they are also very uncanny. Some days global warming fails to heat me up. It is strangely cool and violently stormy. My intimate sensation of prickling heat at the back of my neck is only a distorted print of the hot hand of global warming. I do not feel 'at home' in the biosphere. Yet it surrounds me and penetrates me, like the force in Star Wars. The more I know about global warming, the more I realise how pervasive it is. The more I discover about evolution, the more I realise how my entire physical being is caught in its meshwork. The more I struggle to understand hyperobjects, the more I discover that I am stuck to them. They are all over me. They are me.

Timothy Morton, philosopher, in Hyperobjects, University of Minnesota, 2013
'We know so little of melting,' said the polar bear.
'You are right to be scared,' said the boy, 'but look, I kick my heel into the ice and it makes no mark and neither your claw. I tell you this iceberg is a mountain of glass. We shall stand on it together all the way to paradise.'
'But the water is getting warmer every day.'
'It is too hard a thing to melt.'
But bear did not look so certain.

Jonathan Ledgard, author, from a forthcoming children's story about an iceberg slipping down the planet from the North Pole to the Equator
Flying over a glacier in Greenland
Video: Minik Rosing
As an artist, I am interested in how we give knowledge a body. What does a thought feel like, and how can felt knowledge encourage action? Ice Watch makes the climate challenges we are facing tangible. I hope that people will touch the inland ice on City Hall Square and be touched by it. Perception and physical experience are cornerstones in art, and they may also function as tools for creating social change. We are all part of the 'global we'; we must all work together to ensure a stable climate for future generations.

Olafur Eliasson, artist
Towing ice through Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland
Pieces of ice from the Greenland ice sheet float in Nuup Kangerlua