The years go by and international conferences come and go, with their quota of cries of alarm and calls to action to counter climate change. But in reality few large-scale programmes have been launched anywhere in the world involving concrete action to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
As one who has campaigned for many years for policies of energy consumption control, Benjamin Dessus shows here that the energy challenge is as great as it has ever been in a world of expanding populations in which most peoples aspire to reach the developmental level of the northern countries, despite the fact that our climate probably cannot support such a state of affairs. He argues here against a certain number of common suppositions, such as the idea of focussing exclusively on CO2 in the fight against global warming, the need for a continuous economic growth on the order of 2% per annum or excessive faith in market mechanisms to bring down greenhouse gas emissions.
He also stresses the ambiguities of so-called “green” growth and compares different energy conservancy scenarios. In this way, he shows that, against a relatively dominant line of reasoning based largely on (at times near-utopian) technological solutions and the continuation of sustained economic growth, there are more effective paths based on individual/collective energy sobriety and a serious slowdown of economic growth in the most developed countries, if not indeed a total halt to that growth (though these are more ambitious in that they require a revolution in the behaviour of the most affluent peoples). He concludes by proposing some courses of action for implementing such a programme in a country like France, showing the extent to which modern modes of life are going to have to change and how urgent it now is to debate these matters, if such change is to be achieved without – excessive – pain.