| 21 June 2024, Friday |

Europe space chief warns over political wavering on climate

 Europe’s top space official has urged wavering politicians not to abandon European leadership in combating climate change, saying record heatwaves and vegetation fires provide “really alarming” evidence of the pace of global warming.

“It is clear that climate change is very visible and is really causing enormous changes to our planet,” Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency and a leading expert on environmental observation, told Reuters.

Greece, Italy, Spain and most recently Portugal have grappled with record-breaking temperatures and wildfires this summer.

The World Meterological Organization said July had the highest global average temperature for any month on record.

“This is really alarming,” Aschbacher said. “It just confirms that climate change is the biggest threat to our planet, to humankind, and will remain so for the next decades and we do need to do everything we can to mitigate the effects.”

Until 2021, when he stepped up to run the 22-nation agency, Aschbacher ran ESA’s flagship Earth observation satellite activities including Copernicus, which the Paris-based agency says is the world’s largest environmental monitoring effort.

ESA last week released a Copernicus image of a wildfire that razed thousands of hectares of forest in southern Portugal – a blaze that has since been brought under control.

Scientists say climate change is making heatwaves more frequent, intense and likely to happen across seasons, not just in what were regarded as the summer months.

But pressure is growing on some governments over the cost of net-zero commitments on emissions, and analysts say looming elections in Europe could put future measures at risk.

In Britain, where general elections are scheduled within 18 months, Prime Mininster Rishi Sunak has warned of climate policies that “unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs”.

Ashbacher said long-term costs were likely to be far higher unless governments respond to “crystal clear” evidence, including satellite measurements, of the recent heat emergency in southern Europe.

“Acting now is much cheaper than waiting for years and then patching up the damage that has been caused,” he said when asked if he saw any signs of drift in Europe’s climate agenda.

“So yes, the alarm bells should still be ringing very loud. And it is certainly concerning if the signals are not heard in politics as they should be heard, in order to really save our planet.” He did not single out specific politicians or states.

  • Reuters