Climate Change

Can space tech save the planet? Astronaut Matthias Maurer joins Al Gore and other experts from space

Calling Planet Earth ... Matthias Maurer, European Space Agency astronaut dials in from the ISS to discuss the potential of space tech and space science.

Calling Planet Earth ... Matthias Maurer, European Space Agency astronaut dials in from the ISS to discuss the potential of space tech and space science. Image: World Economic Forum

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Change

This article is part of: The Davos Agenda

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  • For the first time, the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda came live from beyond our atmosphere.
  • The Live from Space: The Next Frontier for Knowledge and Action session saw astronaut Matthias Maurer take part in a debate from the International Space Station.
  • He joined former US vice president Al Gore, UAE Minister Sarah Al Amiri, Astra founder Chris Kemp and ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher in a discussion about what comes next for space exploration.

How can space science help solve some of the biggest challenges back on Earth?

On the International Space Station, astronauts support these efforts to understand more about our planet through the experiments they conduct, explained ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, dialling into the Davos Agenda session live from the International Space Station on Thursday.

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The effects of life in space on astronauts can be significant, he added. But this impact can help scientists understand more about diseases that affect people on Earth.

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The cross-country and international collaboration aboard the space station should also be a model for how we tackle major challenges on Earth - in particular, climate change.

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But the reverse is also true. We need to learn from our mistakes on Earth to inform the future of space tech and space exploration.

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And, as Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States (1993-2001); Chairman and Co-Founder, Generation Investment Management, explained, technology like the James Webb Telescope, will give us a chance to see into the distant past. But, it's up to us to "use our moral imagination to see the future of humanity and to see the grave danger posed by all the global warming pollution we’re putting into the atmosphere every day."

The future of space

Space is increasingly crowded and commercialised, according to the World Economic Forum's latest Global Risks Report.

Evolution of the number of objects in all orbits, 1960-2020
A crowded space. Image: World Economic Forum

Just 3% of those surveyed for the report think that the global measures to manage the risks that come from this are effective.

As Carolina Klint, Risk Management Leader, Europe for report co-author, Marsh & McLennan, wrote for Agenda: "The diversification of actors is an exciting development but dated space governance frameworks are coming under considerable pressure, exposing fault lines between the ambitions of different players and the acceptability of their actions."

But effective management of these risks presents a significant opportunity, she believes.

Have you read?

These opportunities exist in a number of areas. for example, in tackling climate change, as Al Gore, explained.

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If you consider something like GPS, it's also clear how quickly the opportunities offered by space tech and space exploration can become integrated into our lives, he added.

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And access is increasing all the time thanks to significant falls in the cost of putting satellites into space, explained Chris Kemp, the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Astra. This has enabled a new generation of entrepreneurs.

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But the data and knowledge that's gained from space should not be limited to those who own satellites, explained Sarah Al Amiri, the Minister of State for Advanced Technology, Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates.

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And the volume of satellites means that regulation is important, explained Josef Aschbacher, the Director-General of the European Space Agency, echoing the message from the Risks Report.

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You can watch the full session here.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ChangeFourth Industrial RevolutionDavos Agenda
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