Many people have been commenting today to share their concerns about the carbon footprint of Ice Watch London. This question is absolutely worth asking. We think it is valid to hold cultural projects and institutions to a high standard, especially those addressing climate change head-on.
The fact is, everything we do – including everything we do to take on climate change – has a carbon footprint. Often we only think about this when it is explicitly addressed by the work, as in the case of Ice Watch, a work that is intended to raise awareness and inspire climate action, but this question needs to be asked about all activities – every government summit, business meeting, music concert, art exhibition, trade fair, and even google search. It needs to be part of our thinking as a society.
It is important for Olafur and for the Studio to have a clear picture of the environmental impact of bringing Ice Watch to London. That is why we have partnered with Julie's Bicycle (a sustainability charity for the arts sector) to calculate the project’s carbon footprint. While this report will not be completed until the end of the project, Julie’s Bicycle has estimated that Ice Watch will consume 35 tonnes of CO2e. That’s a lot, but to put it into perspective, it is the equivalent of flying 33 people roundtrip from London to Nuuk, Greenland, to visit the melting Greenland ice sheet for themselves.
So while we are very conscious that a project like this carries a non-negligible carbon footprint, it needs to be viewed in relation to the thousands, even millions of people who will be reached by it in London and around the world. Simply showing people films, photographs, and articles is important but not necessarily sufficient. People need to face the tangible consequences of their actions, need to be able to see and feel what we are losing. That experience is what we are bringing to millions of people in one of the decision-making centres of the world. After many years of traditional campaigning, we are now all looking at more direct, forceful, and experiential ways of encouraging people to stop, engage, think, and move towards taking action.