Space exploration is needed to fight climate change, says French prime minister

Exploring space is necessary in the fight against climate change, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said at the world’s largest space conference.

She said space activities help track climate change and extreme weather patterns.

As governments increase funding for space, the sector is often criticized as a “waste of money”, with some saying investment should go towards public welfare instead.

But Ms. Borne said space helps in our daily lives, including communication, navigation and planetary studies.

Greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels – only satellites make it possible to measure these points and track climate change

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne

She spoke at the opening ceremony of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which runs through September 22 in Paris.

More than 8,500 people are attending the conference, including heads of space agencies from China, the US, Europe, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

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“We live in a time of great upheaval, not only because of geopolitics, but also because of climate change.

“More space is needed. Greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels – only satellites make it possible to measure these points and track climate change.

“Our mission now is to put space at the service of ecological transition.”

Many parts of the world are facing dire impacts from climate change, including Europe, which experienced sustained heat waves this summer.

The highest temperature recorded in Portugal was 47°C on July 14th.

Pakistan — a country with more glaciers than anywhere else in the world outside of the polar region — has experienced flooding, with a third of the country now submerged.

More than 3 million people have been affected and many are now living in tents.

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French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 73rd International Astronautical Congress.  AFP

Scientists have been using satellite data to monitor climate change for decades.

Space agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency have dedicated programs that track how the Earth is changing due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Philippe Baptiste, president of the French space agency CNES, said that while space is helpful in the fight against climate change, stakeholders also need to ensure “sustainable use of space”.

Space debris is a growing problem with more than 8,000 tons of space debris currently orbiting the earth.

“As space agencies and private actors, it is our duty to ensure the sustainable use of space so that future generations can continue to benefit,” he said.

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Billionaires like Elon Musk have been criticized for polluting the skies with its Starlink satellites, a constellation of satellites that provide internet access in underserved areas.

Remnants of China’s largest rocket have re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere twice in the past year.

The opening ceremony was also attended by speakers from the American aerospace company Lockheed Martin and the French rocket company ArianeGroup.

Also at the IAC, signatories to the Artemis Accords – an international agreement on space exploration led by the USA – meet for the first time.

Heads of space agencies from China, the US, Japan, India and Canada will present future plans.

Russia’s space agency Roskosmos is not there this year.

The Russian news agency TASS reported that officials were “denied invitations and visa support.” Relations between the European Union and Russia have deteriorated since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Updated September 18, 2022 11:57 am

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