Astronaut to UN climate conference: I see the damage from space

View of Earth from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and American actor Harrison Ford added their voices this week to calls for emergency international action to slow the alarming pace of climate degradation.

“I have seen with my own eyes the terrible effects of climate change,” Parmitano told conferees at the United Nations climate conference in Madrid, speaking from the International Space Station 250 miles above the Earth’s surface.

“Our planet is incredibly beautiful. We also see its incredible fragility.”

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, aboard the International Space Station, tells climate conferees in Madrid he can see the climate damage from space.

Parmitano spoke live to the conference a few days after American astronauts Scott Kelly and Andrew Morgan sent recorded videos from the space station. All called on world leaders, non-government organizations and all citizens to do their utmost to stop climate degradation, which they said is visible from space.

The astronauts’ broadcasts were some of the most thrilling events in the past 36 hours of the two-week climate conference in Madrid. But a movie star who plays a space-traveling rogue was also a big deal.

Ford, a star of the “Star Wars” films, said in a panel at the climate conference to throw political caution to the wind and take bold action before it’s too late.

The United Nations tweeted remarks actor Harrison Ford made at the climate conference.

“We know what to do. What know the facts. What we need now is the courage to act,” Ford said in televised remarks.

Meanwhile, conferees got down to the hard work of specifying how to drastically reduce greenhouse gases that experts say cause global warming.

While leaders of 200 nations described this week what they will do to fight climate change, UN President Antonio Guterres reiterated his dire warnings that the world’s nations, especially its biggest polluters, must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by next year.

Otherwise, he said, citing World Meteorological Organization reports, climate degradation will reach a point of no return.

“It is five minutes to midnight in the global climate emergency,” Guterres said in a webcast from Madrid.

Marcia Bernicat, head of the U.S. diplomatic degelation to the climate conference, confirmed the U.S. will not commit to emission reductions.

The head of the official U.S. delegation to the conference confirmed to world leaders that the United States is formally quitting the United Nations joint international program by next year, as directed by President Donald Trump.

Diplomat Marcia Bernicat, a U.S. State Department bureau assistant deputy secretary and top member of the U.S. climate delegation, said the U.S. is walking away from the commitments it made at the Paris climate conference in 2015.

It came as no surprise to climate conferees who have bemoaned the U.S. withdrawal throughout the two-week conference, stressing that the United States is one of the world’s large emitters of greenhouse gases.

“Our last day as a party to the Paris Agreement will be November 4, 2020, but we will remain focused on a realistic and pragmatic model – backed by a record of real world results.  Our model shows how innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy,” Bernicat said in a televised speech.

Her speech, delivered Wednesday, was a far cry from the “bold, American leadership” promised at the conference last week by Rep. Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 14 other elected members of Congress who traveled to Madrid to refute the Trump Administration’s stance on global climate efforts.

Castor, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, is working to pass legislation in Congress requiring the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement and honor its commitments to slash greenhouse-gas emissions degrading the atmosphere of the planet.

“American leadership is critical,” Castor said in a statement responding to the Florida Phoenix Thursday. “That’s why many American states, cities, businesses and religious organizations remain committed to the Paris Agreement climate goals. That’s why Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats will continue pushing forward bold climate action.

“It is just a matter of time before the United States regains its role as a global leader in solving the climate crisis, but it’s time we cannot afford to waste.”