n 2015, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Greenland geologist Minik Rosing hauled thirty salvaged icebergs from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland to a square in the centre of Paris, France for the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference. The public was invited to interact with the ancient icebergs — to climb on them, smell them, hear the air pop, and literally feel the blocks melt away.
According to Eliasson, the aim of this elaborate installation, which has been repeated three times since 2014, is to provoke the audience into feeling a sense of urgency about the devastating effects of climate change by allowing them to experience the physicality of the icebergs in front of them. The project, titled Ice Watch, has been widely covered by the international press. Eliasson was even named a Goodwill Ambassador for The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to raise awareness and mobilize support for climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals (SGGs).
Critics have called attention to the catch-twenty-two of creating such an immersive experience for the sake of the climate crisis 一 namely the significant carbon footprint that is required to haul eighty tons of ice across several continents. Eliasson’s team has responded to these concerns by releasing emission reports with each installation. According to its report, the 2015 installation produced a thirty tonne CO2 emission, equivalent to thirty people flying return from Paris, France to Nuuk, Greenland. To Eliasson, these environmental impact are ‘worth it’ to provoke greater audiences to think about the material impact of climate change. He’s been outspoken about the fact that white paper reports aren’t enough to engage public audiences, advocating for the power of creative practices to affect urgency and impact change in environmental policy. Yet, however striking and dramatic in its effect and ability to promote public and policy conversations, it is difficult to believe that the environmental cost of Eliasson’s project outweighs the overall benefit.