Tackling the climate crisis should be the priority of the space activities, say Europeans

A survey conducted by the European Space Agency reveals that the European citizens support the use of space technologies to understand the causes and effects of climate change on Earth. The data also shows that the vast majority want Europe to be a leader in the global space sector.

For the European citizens, space activities should have as a priority the study and analysis of the effects and causes of climate change. In addition, they also consider that Europe should show responsibility, leadership and autonomy in the space sector. These are the major conclusions of the survey “Europeans and space activities: How do Europeans perceive issues related to space?”, conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA). The results of this survey, released by ESA this Tuesday, are based on the answers of 21.366 Europeans from the agency’s 22 Member-States, including 1.000 Portuguese.

The inquiry, carried out between last September 25 and October 6, had a representative sample from each country, calculated based on the number of inhabitants, and followed variables such as age, gender or region of residence.

According to the press release published by ESA, 9 out of 10 Europeans say that the “most important use of space” is to “gather data on climate change” and “understand what is happening to the Earth”. For Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, the results show that “European citizens strongly support investment in Space to improve life on Earth”, to “monitor and mitigate climate change”. “We must act now to increase autonomy, leadership and responsibility in Space,” stressed Josef Aschbacher.

More than 80 percent of respondents say that European countries should pool “their space activities to compete with other space nations” and that “European space activities should be independent of decisions made by other major space powers”. According to ESA, this opinion “has grown significantly since the last survey” of its kind, which was conducted in 2019 and then only included Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK.

The responses of European citizens on the use of space technologies are published one week away from ESA’s 2022 Ministerial Council, Space22+, which takes place in Paris on November 22 and 23. The strategy that Portugal will take to the meeting mirrors the opinion of the citizens but also reflects the work and bet that have been developed by the Portuguese Space Agency since 2018.

“The Portuguese Space Agency defends a sustainable space for a sustainable planet and one of the ways to respond to climate change is by using Space technologies. This should be a social and economic priority and the country should support both as a supplier of satellite data, as an enabler of the use of this data and also as a systems integrator,” considers Ricardo Conde, president of the Portuguese Space Agency. “Space has answers to these problems, which we are already facing, and that is why we must encourage, promote and invest in programs, projects and missions aimed at the sustainability of our planet,” he adds.

Earth Observation data, collected by satellites, has a wide area of applications, being essential in weather forecasting, but also in the management of forest and agricultural resources or in monitoring infrastructures, for example. In addition, they are used by scientists and political leaders and even entrepreneurs to monitor, understand and predict changes and crises arising from climate change.


Space debris cleaning is a priority

Most of the European citizens inquired consider that Space “is fundamental to further human knowledge about the Universe, as well to improve life on Earth through communication connections and navigation signals”.

In what concerns space ventures, most of the respondents mention cleaning up space debris as a priority do Europe — ahead of the “organization of exploration missions to Mars”, “putting astronauts on the Moon” and “organizing an exploration mission with astronauts to Mars”. “This is another positive point: people are aware of what is going on in the space sector and understand that it is essential to ensure the sustainability of space. Without it, we won’t be able to use all its potential to, once again, improve life on our planet”, Ricardo Conde points out.

The importance that Europeans give to space exploration has grown since 2019. “The support for a robotic exploration to Mars grew 18% among the respondents from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom”, states ESA. Simultaneously, the European citizens also support Humans going to the Moon and to Mars, with an increase of 18 and 16 percentage points on these issues, respectively.

Portugal Space
16 of November, 2022