Can we get on with saving planet Earth now, please?

Dr Stuart Parkinson, SGR, argues that the publication of the latest IPCC report and fatal crash of SpaceShipTwo should spur engineers, scientists and others into putting more effort into reducing carbon emissions.

ResponsibleSci blog, 5 November 2014

There are few things that so starkly exemplify our lack of serious concern about climate change than the enthusiasm over the last few years for space tourism. So it’s particularly (and tragically) ironic that the fatal crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo happened a couple of days before the publication of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It takes an awful lot of fuel to transport people to the edge of space for just a few minutes – as SpaceShipTwo was (indeed, still is) intended to do. And a lot more fuel to get them to and from the planned spaceport in New Mexico from wherever in the world they live. And hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the technology to do all this. And a great deal of scientific and technical expertise. Meanwhile, the IPCC is warning of “severe, pervasive and... irreversible detrimental impacts” if we don’t make major changes to global society. So how about the people involved in investing, developing and running these polluting playthings for the rich and famous set a positive example by using their time, money and expertise in helping to reduce carbon emissions?

Dr Stuart Parkinson is Executive Director of SGR. He holds a PhD in climate science, and has co-written a book on climate policy.