PARIS -- A French astronaut reported back on Earth's climate change damage as seen from space on Thursday, calling it a "sad sight" in a conversation with President Emmanuel Macron.
Thomas Pesquet, on his second tour at the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting the planet, told Macron by video link that the destructive impact of human activity was becoming more and more visible, even from 400 kilometers away.
"Unfortunately that is the case, Mister President," Pesquet said. "Through the portholes of the space station, we distinctly see Earth's fragility," he said. "We see the damaging effects of human activity, pollution of rivers and air pollution."
He said the astronauts at the station had observed "entire regions burning, like in Canada. We saw California covered in a cloud of smoke, we saw the flames with our naked eyes," he said.
Similar devastation could be seen in Greece and southern France, the pilot said, also describing "the sad sight of repeated tropical storms".
Asked by Macron whether things had changed since Pesquet's first mission in 2016, the astronaut said: "Yes, the weather phenomena are accelerating at an alarming rate."
Visibly struck by that observation, Macron remained silent for a moment, and then said: "We must speed up our commitments and their implementation much more. That is the objective of the COP26," he said, referring to the ongoing UN-sponsored climate conference.
Pesquet, an astronaut for the European Space Agency, is the current ISS commander.
He is to return to Earth in the coming days following a second six-month stint at the station, five years after his first ISS tour.