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250 People Attend Funeral for 'Death' of Swiss Alps Glacier

Climate
People take part in a ceremony to mark the 'death' of the Pizol glacier on Sept. 22. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images

Hundreds of activists gathered in the Swiss Alps on Sunday to mourn the loss of Pizol, a glacier that has steadily retreated over the last decade as temperatures have warmed the mountain tops, according to CNN.


More than 250 people donned black funeral clothes, including hats and lace veils, and climbed to a spot over 8,500 feet above sea level to say goodbye to Pizol in the Glarus Alps, in the eastern part of Switzerland near the border with Austria.

"I have climbed up here countless times," said Matthias Huss, a glacier expert at ETH Zurich university who attended. "It is like the dying of a good friend."

The glacier, which has been monitored since 1893 will be the first to be taken off the Swiss glacier surveillance network, since it has lost 80 to 90 percent of its volume since 2006. It now contains less than 26,000 meters of ice, which is smaller than four football fields, according to Huss, as CNN reported.

"Pizol glacier has disappeared," Huss told CNN. "There will be some snow left, but the glacier is no more."

Pizol has "lost so much substance that from a scientific perspective it is no longer a glacier," said Alessandra Degiacomi of the Swiss Association for Climate Protection, as The Independent reported.

A local priest gave a speech to commemorate the lost glacier.

While the Pizol glacier may be lost to the annals of history, the funeral attendees hope they can draw attention to other glaciers that are retreating, but may still be saved.

"We can basically not save this glacier, this glacier is a symbol that glaciers are disappearing, that the ice is melting in the Alps," said Huss in a Reuters video. "We cannot save this glacier but there are many other glaciers that we can potentially save by protecting the climate, the bigger glaciers can still be saved, but also in a smaller size."

Pizol is just one casualty in a climate crisis that has the potential of drastically altering the Swiss Alps. In one study earlier this year, ETH Zurich researchers estimated that 90 percent of alpine glaciers will vanish if we continue along the current pace of greenhouse gas emissions, as Deutsche Welle reported.

Pizol is not the first glacier in the Swiss Alps to melt into extinction. In fact, Huss estimated that more than 500 glaciers have melted since 1850, including 50 that were named. What sets Pizol apart is it is the first Swiss glacier to disappear that has been so thoroughly studied, according to Deutsche Welle.

"If Pizol goes, this is a warning sign. This is what is going to happen if we don't change something about our behavior," Degiacomi told CNN.

She added that the Swiss Association for Climate Protection had obtained 120,000 signatures, crossing the 100,000-requirement threshold, to launch a popular initiative demanding that Switzerland reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Switzerland, which is a direct democracy, will now have to put the carbon neutral initiative on an upcoming ballot.

"We can't save the Pizol glacier anymore," said Huss, as The Independent reported. "[But] let's do everything we can, so that we can show our children and grandchildren a glacier here in Switzerland a hundred years from now."

The funeral for Pizol follows the plaque ceremony scientists participated in to memorialize Okjökull last month, the first Icelandic glacier lost to the climate crisis, as EcoWatch reported.

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