The director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs has called for renewed collective action to protect space for future generations and tackle the climate emergency and other global challenges.
Simonetta Di Pippo addressed an online seminar on Monday as part of the annual Autumn Conference of the European Space Policy Institute.
The Italian astrophysicist gave an impassioned plea for “co-ordinated and concerted international action, upholding to the highest standards of responsibility, transparency and sustainability so we can build a better future up there in the sky and down here on the planet we call home".
“In the end space is a global common and a limited resource and we must protect it for future generations,” Ms Di Pippo said.
“It is at this point of our lives when the huge need for collective action manifests itself more than ever before.”
She compared the threat posed by space debris to the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
Ms Di Pippo said scientists had long warned of the dangers of a pandemic but little action was taken to prevent it.
She said that scientists continued to warn of the dangers posed by space debris and the threat of climate change but these warnings were also unheeded.
“The dangers posed by inactive satellites and other objects in the category of space debris have been known and debated for at least the Past 40 years,” Ms Di Pippo said.
“And yet, despite logging more than 300,000 collision alerts with space debris every year, we continue to put spacecraft in orbit at an unprecedented pace with little or no attention to the consequences.
“I'm not just saying that we must stop launching satellites. You must listen to science and take the right decisions now before it is too late.”
She said humanity would have to overcome “individual greed, nationalism, protectionism and unilateral action” to overcome the threat of a “climate emergency”.
“It is us humans with the hands on the steering wheel," Ms Di Pippo said. "No one else is responsible for the challenges we face and no one else can solve them.”