Chichester astronaut Tim Peake warns against climate change during Q&A at COP26

Astronaut and Chichester hero Tim Peake believes that space can play a vital role in tackling climate change.

Chichester astronaut Tim Peake spoke during a Q&A from COP26 about how space could help tackle climate change. Photo by David Lowndes SUS-210911-125631001
Chichester astronaut Tim Peake spoke during a Q&A from COP26 about how space could help tackle climate change. Photo by David Lowndes SUS-210911-125631001

British ESA astronaut, and Chichester’s own Tim Peake spoke at COP26 in Glasgow (on November 8) as part of a UK Space Agency event, answering questions from children about how Earth observation satellites are helping to monitor and tackle climate change from space.

Half of the 56 types of data we need to accurately monitor, and model climate change can only be measured from space, with satellites providing global coverage across international borders.

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Speaking at COP26, Peake said: “When you look down on the planet you see signs of both the cause and the effect of climate change.

“In terms of the cause for example when you go over South America, and you see the Amazon rainforest you can see vast areas of deforestation and we know that that’s contributing to the climate change affect.

“Or as you go over the Himalayas, which are stunning and beautiful, but then you look down to the South and you see the levels of smog that are being built up on the southern parts of the Himalayas and again all of that pollution is contributing to the climate change affect. So two big causes we see straight away from space.

“Then you see the effects - in 2016 when I was on-board the International Space Station we had very large wildfires in Alberta, Fort McMurray, and the smoke from those fires covered the entire continent of North America and as an astronaut you know why because when you see Earth’s atmosphere from space it is tiny.

“It’s 16km thick, you know if Earth was a football our atmosphere would be a sheet of A4 paper. And that smoke has got nowhere to go so it spreads out over the whole continent.

“It’s very easy here on Earth to look up at the sky and think “do you know what, that just goes on forever, that lovely blue sky”, it doesn’t go on for ever, it’s a very, very thin atmosphere, hence we have to really look after that strip of gas extremely carefully, there’s not much of it wrapped around planet Earth.

“Seeing the view of Earth from space that has a profound effect on you without a doubt but in terms of the most influential piece of technology it’s data, data, data.

“I can’t say that enough because we need to make informed decisions and we need to make the right decisions. We haven’t got the time and we haven’t got the money to get it wrong.

“So in order to get it right and to do it right now we need that data so we make really informed decisions and we do the right thing, right now to get this whole thing moving.”

Peake also believes that space will play a massive part in the helping climate change, he said: “Space gives us the ability to look down on the planet, not just visually but in so many different spectrums to get all this information.

“We can then take that information, we can feed it into the scientists, we can feed it into data and into modelling and then we can make the decisions that we need to make as to where we need to invest the money to make the right decisions to make things right.

“We are continuing to learn and work out exactly what we need to do, what’s going to have the best effect in the shortest amount of time and space is an enabler for that.”