From space, Italian astronaut urges U.N. summit to save ‘beautiful’ Earth

Italian astronaut and current International Space Station (ISS) commander Luca Parmitano speaks through an in-flight connection from space to panelists including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Spain's Sience Minister Pedro Duque at the High-Level event on Global Climate Action during the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera

MADRID (Reuters) – Awed by the blue-green hues swirling across the marble-like surface of the Earth below, an Italian astronaut made an emotional appeal from space on Wednesday for world leaders to pull their “heads out of the sand” over climate change.

Speaking via video link from the International Space Station, Luca Parmitano told a session at a U.N. summit in Madrid that his vantage point afforded him a unique perspective on the devastating impact of hurricanes and floods.

“Our planet is incredibly beautiful. We also see its incredible fragility,” the military test pilot told U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who is pushing for bigger commitments by big polluters at the talks.

“I have seen with my own eyes the terrible effects of climate change,” Parmitano said.

The celestial intervention provided a welcome distraction for delegates at the talks, where the slow progress of climate negotiations cuts a stark contrast with the sense of urgency felt by young activists desperate to see bold action.

On Tuesday, U.S. actor Harrison Ford, famous for his role in the Star Wars franchise, told a side-event: “People are scared. Angry. And they are right to be.”

Appearing to float slightly above the floor of a capsule packed with cables and equipment, Parmitano laced his appeal with poignant descriptions of the breathtaking spectacle of watching sunrise from orbit.

“We need to pull our heads out of the sand because we are refusing to see what’s happening,” he said. “We need to see the problem to change it and to change ourselves.”