Astronaut Major Tim Peake has said it is too early to tell whether this summer’s heatwave is part of a global trend towards warming temperatures or a one-off.
Many climate change experiments have been conducted on board the International Space Station (ISS) and Major Peake said he “should have the opportunity” to return there for a second mission between now and 2024.
Asked if he considered the heatwave as cause for concern, Major Peake said: “I take my information along with everybody else from the scientific reports that we get back and of course we are aware that the planet is on a trend, a global trend towards warming temperatures.
“I think the important thing is to understand how we can prevent that from causing catastrophic events.
“As to whether this year’s heatwave is a part of that trend or if that is a one-off is really something I think we’ll have to wait to find out longer but certainly we are under no illusions that the planet is warming, climate is changing and we need to address that in a very serious manner.”
Asked if it is possible that, if changes are not made, Earth will not remain inhabitable, he said: “It’s very difficult to predict but we do know that if temperatures go beyond about two to three degrees warmer then it’s going to dramatically change the conditions on Earth and it’s very hard to tell exactly what those conditions will be in the future.
“But certainly I don’t think it’s going to lend itself to a more favourable environment for us to live and work in.”
The 46-year-old was speaking at Peterborough Cathedral, where the capsule that brought him back to Earth after his six-month mission in space has gone on display along with his spacesuit.
The Soyuz TMA-19M descent module, which landed in Kazakhstan on June 18 2016, bears scorch marks from its journey through the atmosphere.
Major Peake said there is a continually rolling science programme on board the space station and in a six-month period there could be between 250 and 350 experiments.
“The International Space Station – one of the great things about it is it’s a wonderful Earth observation platform and we do a remarkable amount of science on board and a lot of that is obviously looking towards Earth and helping to study climate change so there are many experiments that have gone on in the past and will be planned for the future for that,” he said.
Major Peake was later asked questions by children at the event, with one quizzing him about his favourite music.
The astronaut said he is a fan of Ed Sheeran and would take music by him on his next mission.
The module was acquired by the Science Museum Group in 2016 and is on a UK tour.
It will be in Peterborough until November 5.