ESA Polling Puts Climate Change #1 for Europeans

21st Nov 2022
ESA Polling Puts Climate Change #1 for Europeans

Toluna and Harris and the European Space Agency polled over 21,000 people from ESA’s member states regarding their perspectives on the space industry. It was the first survey of this kind since 2019, and participants emphasized their desire for the government to harness the benefits of space for the monitoring of climate change. European leadership and debris mitigation also placed highly in citizens’ minds regarding space. The ESA polling shows some surprising shifts in public sentiment.

ESA claims the importance of space exploration has “greatly increased in people’s minds” since 2019. ESA carried out the study from 25th September to 6th October, with the highest number of participants in Belgium.

Climate Change and European citizens

Climate change is an ongoing discussion across every industry and is a high priority of the EU as it plans to be climate-neutral by 2050. Space is an important contributor to mitigating the problem, as Earth Observation (EO) satellites can monitor land changes, detect weather events, predict crop growth and drought, and more. Further, satellites like GPS or positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) can help identify more efficient modes of transport and avoid environmentally disastrous collisions.

“Satellite data underpins more than half of the essential climate variables identified by the UN’s Global Climate Observing System,” ESA says. “Space helps scientists, policymakers and political leaders not only to monitor, understand, model and predict, but – crucially – to act on climate-induced and other crises.”

In response to the poll, 86% of respondents said that they prefer “greater emphasis to be put on monitoring” the cause and effect of climate change from space. Further, 9 in 10 Europeans said it is important to collect insights on climate change and foster an understanding of what is happening on Earth through space. The previous survey in 2019 did not emphasize climate change, yet it seems to be the main concern in 2022.

EU leadership remains a priority

Though ESA is one of the largest space agencies in the world, Europe’s supremacy in orbit was a priority for participants of the poll. About 82% of respondents agree that the “pooling of European space activities should enable European countries to compete against major space powers” such as the US, Russia, China, India, and Brazil. This number was a significant jump from the previous survey, which saw 70% agree with the statement. Further, 81% of participants hope European space activities will be independent of decisions made by other space powers; an increase from 64% in agreeance in 2019.

Space exploration support grows

Space inspires children from a young age. However, many grown-ups soured on the continuous exploration of the Cosmos. Polls showed that many believe governments spend too much money on research in orbit. However, the latest survey represents a shift of perspective, as citizens begin to recognize the importance of missions in space. According to the ESA polling, support for robotic exploration of Mars rose by 18% within France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK compared to the previous survey. In particular, while the UK had the second-highest percentage of support for Mars exploration at 78% (behind Italy), the nation recorded the largest jump in support compared to the 2019 survey, at 22%.

While the robotic mission to Mars received the most backing, not far behind was organizing a new exploration mission with astronauts to the moon and organising an astronaut mission to Mars.

 “This survey shows that the citizens of Europe strongly support investing in space to improve life on Earth – and that there is an increased appetite for a greater ambition for space in Europe,” said Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA. As world leaders meet for the 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), European citizens want to see space used even more to monitor and mitigate climate change. We must act now to increase European autonomy, leadership and responsibility in space”.

ESA polling timing

The ESA polling occurred ahead of the ESA Council at Ministerial level which is going ahead on 22nd and 23rd November in Paris.  

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