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October 28, 2021

by Juliette Collen

From his place 400 kilometers above the earth, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet has a unique perspective on the climate-related natural disasters that have struck the planet in the past six months.

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Pesquet recently completed his second mission on the International Space Station, an experience that made him appreciate the fragility of the earth like never before.

He spoke to AFP ahead of the start of the UN climate summit on October 31st, sharing his hopes and fears for the planet.

The massive storms and the forest fires. I’ve never seen anything like it, incredibly large fires with clouds of smoke that can be seen from space for days.

It was striking to think of the energy it gave off and the damage it did to people who were unfortunate enough to get in its way.

We have never had so many extreme seen impressive tropical storms – you could practically look the cyclone in the eye. They are walls of clouds with phenomenal power that come more and more often and cause more and more destruction.

Yes absolutely. When you see the planet from the window of your spaceship, think. You only have to see it once: you can spend two days in space and only reach this distance, see the fragility of the atmosphere, this thin bubble that enables life in the vacuum of space, this incredible oasis – it changes your life.

When you see long-term change – sometimes it takes you more than five years to see it – you can’t help but be concerned.

That’s why I became the Food and Agriculture Organization (UN) Ambassador and advocate of many environmental issues.

The idea that we may not be able to reach an international deal and that economic issues prevail over environmental issues.

It’s a completely short-sighted approach. In the long term, profits are directly threatened by climate change. When you see the Great Barrier Reef not on the list of areas at risk due to pressure from the Australian government, you think the priorities are wrong and we are in trouble.

The first thing you need to do is is to listen to the experts who have dedicated their lives to delivering solutions at the local, regional, national and global levels. We have to try to find solutions.

The most urgent task is decarbonization. You need to prioritize renewable energy and carbon free energy. And that requires restrictive measures and international obligations for which countries can be held accountable. This is what COP26 is all about.

© 2021 AFP

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