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Astronomy and the climate crisis

Astronomers for Planet Earth have an urgent message to share with you, prepared for the day of global climate action (Sep 25th 2020), but unfortunately still very valid today:

Earthrise – the planet rose behind the moon for the astronauts in lunar orbit during the Apollo 8 mission. (NASA/Bill Anders, 1968)

Pale Blue Dot – From beyond Neptune’s orbit, Voyager 1 imaged Earth as a tiny speck of light inside the right most solar reflection stripe. (NASA, 1990)

Astronomy is not just the study of other celestial objects like planets, stars and galaxies. It also serves to reflect upon our own world. Images such as the iconic Earthrise and the Pale Blue Dot are awe-inspiring symbols for the uniqueness and fragility of Earth, “the only home we’ve ever known”, as Carl Sagan wrote in his book (1997) with the same title. It is still true today despite more than 4000 known extrasolar worlds. There is no other world for us. In my view, this simple and powerful revelation is the single most important contribution that astronomy can bring to society. I am convinced that fully embracing this view will lead to a better world: We must protect Earth and preserve it for future generations. We must treat the human-made climate crisis as the serious threat that it is and immediately and significantly reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.

In recent times I have therefore initiated and contributed to a number of activities around the globe to promote this idea and help fight against the climate crisis using the astronomical perspective.

At the all-virtual EAS 2020 meeting in June 2020, my colleagues and I organised a series of lunch/special sessions that were all related to using astronomy for development, education or climate action. The sessions were

  • Special Session 14: Astronomy for Future: Development, global citizenship & climate action – this was a special session consisting of three blocks covering astronomy for development, astronomy for global awareness and using astronomy for climate action (as well as discussing how to make astronomy itself “green”).
  • Lunch Session 11: Astronomy for Future: Maintaining world-class research and collaboration in the climate crisis — including talks by Sir Martin Rees and IAU president Ewine van Dishoeck
  • Lunch Session 10: Astronomy for development

High-quality version of the poster (PDF, 735 KByte) for download.

Together with a large number of colleagues world-wide (currently mostly in Europe and in the U.S., though) we have formed Astronomers for Planet Earth.

In various events, I am speaking about the climate crisis from the astronomical perspective. Please see the list of my public talks.

For a concise summary of this topic, please see this 20 minute talk I gave in August 2020 for the all-virtual DotDotAstro event:

For a slightly longer version, including a good discussion, please see this seminar talk that I gave in June 2020 at the Liverpool John Moore’s university:


Resources (sorted approximately by publication date)

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