Prince William attacks space travel when the climate is threatened

Duke of Cambridge warns climate crisis is inducing anxiety among young people

Britain's Prince William says the world's greatest minds should address the climate crisis on Earth as he hit out at celebrities and business figures engaging in space tourism and the quest for extraterrestrial settlements.

The royal's comments come after former Star Trek actor William Shatner made history by becoming the oldest person in space on board a Blue Origin rocket, the space tourism company owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.

“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to repair this planet, not trying to find the next place to go and live”, the duke said in a BBC interview about climate change, ahead of his inaugural Earthshot Prize awards.

He also ruled out going into space himself, adding that there was a “fundamental question” over the carbon cost of space flights.

The royal said the climate crisis is inducing anxiety in young people, adding it would be a “absolute disaster” if his eldest son, Prince George, was having to talk about the same issue in 30 years time.

“We are seeing a rise in climate anxiety. You know, people, young people now are growing up where their futures are basically threatened the whole time."

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If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge

“It’s very unnerving and it’s very, you know, anxiety making,” he said. “If we’re not careful we’re robbing from our children’s future through what we do now. And I think that’s not fair.”

He also warned attendees at the Cop26 summit, where world leaders will gather in Glasgow at the end of the month, against “clever speak, clever words but not enough action”.

British astronaut Tim Peake on Thursday pushed back against criticisms of space exploration, saying that it was "incredibly important" to the field of climate change research.

The former ISS crew member pointed out that half of climate data comes from space-related assets and that rocket fuel, such as liquid hydrogen, only has a "tiny impact" on the environment.

"Everybody is using space on a daily basis, probably, without even knowing it, Major Peake told Sky News. "But we need to use space sustainably, we need to consider the environment, absolutely."

On Wednesday, William was at an educational event at London's Kew Gardens, two weeks after he warned of an environmental crisis facing the planet.

He was joined by his wife, Kate Middleton, as well as London Mayor Sadiq Khan, TV presenter Steve Backshall and double-Olympic rowing champion Helen Glover.

The group were joined by guests and pupils from The Heathland School in Hounslow, west London, who took part in a series of fun and thought-provoking activities as part of the Generation Earthshot event.

“Education is such an important part of protecting our planet,” said Prince William, who, along with Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales, will be attending the Cop26 UN climate conference.

“We must inspire in the next generation the optimism, confidence and enthusiasm to chase those solutions and to continue building a more sustainable future.

“We know that young children already identify the climate as one of their biggest worries, and Generation Earthshot aims to educate and encourage them that, together, we can find the answers.

“Children can be uniquely creative and I can't wait to see some of the ideas that are shared with us.”

Children's Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza commissioned the Big Ask survey of young people, which published their responses last month with worries about the environment raised by youngsters.

Four in 10 children said the environment was one of their main priorities and concerns for the future, with the second most common worry being whether they would grow up to benefit from a healthy planet.

Generation Earthshot aims to inform children's interest in the environment and encourage students and their teachers across the world to generate ideas to solve the world's greatest environmental challenges.

Earthshot Prize Finalists - in Pictures

“It's been great to work with the bright young leaders of our future today to develop ideas on how to address the climate and environmental crisis,” Mr Khan said.

“I want London to be a zero-pollution city so that no child has to grow up in our city breathing toxic air, and I'm determined that we continue to tackle the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency so that we can deliver a future that's greener, fairer and more prosperous for everyone.”

The Earthshot Prize is an ambitious awards project to recognise ideas, innovations and solutions that combat climate change and help protect the environment.

Winners in five categories will be named during a ceremony on Sunday and each will receive £1 million ($1.3m) to develop their projects.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend the star-studded ceremony, hosted by Clara Amfo and Dermot O'Leary, at Alexandra Palace in north London.

Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and KSI are among those performing, and actors Dame Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, David Oyelowo and Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah will be handing out awards.

Updated: October 14th 2021, 9:47 AM
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