Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
This March, Japan commemorated the first anniversary of the Fukushima tragedy, when an unhappy combination of natural disasters led to a nuclear accident. The material and human damage was enormous and it will be decades before memories fade and the Japanese can try to forget this tragedy, which attests to the great vulnerability of – even the most advanced – economies to natural and technological risks. In the wake of the accident, there has been much debate on the pertinence of the use of nuclear fission in energy production, particularly in France. Without going over these debates once again, it is nonetheless legitimate to ask not just how well equipped we are to prevent nuclear risks, but also how the consequences of a potential nuclear disaster would be dealt with in this country.
It is this question that Guy Brassard latches on to. After reminding us of the limits of the responsibility of EDF (Électricité de France) and the state in France regarding the indemnification of the damage that would ensue from such a disaster, Brassard stresses the inadequacy of the guarantees in force and calls for the creation of a reserve fund for exceptional events. He stresses the need to mitigate the nuclear risk through a clear assessment of power stations on the basis of uniform security parameters, a publicly available economic analysis of the electricity mix, and the establishment of measures of efficiency and prudence in the use of France’s nuclear resources.
He ends by proposing a model, based on a large number of international studies, for calculating the costs of a scheme for insuring against exceptional risks. From these it emerges that a very moderate increase in the price of electricity would make it possible to set aside 100 billion euros over 18 years to meet a risk that would arise only once every century. A relatively negligible investment for the future by comparison with the cost to the public finances of such a disaster occurring.
Le charbon a fait « son grand retour » et la plupart des scénarios énergétiques font l’hypothèse que la demande mondiale de charbon progressera fortement dans les prochaines décennies. Les deux tiers de la demande nouvelle proviendraient de la Chine. La Chine, qui représente près de la moitié de la production mondiale de charbon, n’est devenue un pays importateur net qu’en 2009. L’irruption du « géant noir » sur le marché mondial du charbon conduit à s’interroger sur les ...
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Les fermes verticales, projets de constructions urbaines fonctionnant à la manière de serres empilées visant à reproduire un système agraire hors sol, sont-elles en mesure de répondre à certains défis à venir de l’agriculture, ou relèvent-elles d’une nouvelle utopie ?
La montée en puissance des énergies renouvelables dans la production d’énergie (tout particulièrement celle du solaire et de l’éolien) est une hypothèse centrale des scénarios énergétiques, et en particulier de ceux proposés par l’Agence internationale de l’énergie (AIE). Elles sont en effet considérées comme une option fondamentale d’une politique visant à s’affranchir progressivement du recours aux énergies fossiles et, pour certains, au nucléaire. Dans cette perspective, l’énergie solaire bénéficie d’un engouement, depuis ...
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Economic crisis, global warming, eco-systems under threat, depleted public finances – the current situation, in Europe in particular, is scarcely favourable to needless expenditure and unrestrained consumption. It is, in fact, gradually becoming accepted that the time has perhaps come substantially to revise our modes of life, so as to consume more intelligently in a world whose limited resources have to be divided between a growing number of individuals. This, writes Jean Haëntjens, may involve recourse to the concept of frugality (producing more satisfaction with fewer resources), a concept that is not new, as is attested by the writings of Epicurus, but which, applied on the urban scale, offers genuine possibilities for establishing new developmental models.
Haëntjens presents the main characteristics of this concept of frugality here. He outlines the main strategies implemented by the pioneering cities in this area. He described what he terms the “palette of frugal options”, namely, the lines of possible action to achieve this end through urban policies. Lastly, he stresses how “frugal cities” might inspire national policies in terms of encouraging new lifestyles – and new styles of urbanism.
In issue 380 of Futuribles in December 2011, Antonin Pottier analysed in detail the workings of what is today termed “climate scepticism” – namely the propensity of certain individuals to contest the reality of climate change on the basis of pseudo-scientific arguments. He emphasized particularly that what fuels the debate on climate change is, largely, the degree of uncertainty inherent in the consequences to be anticipated from observation of the facts, not the description of the facts itself. In his view, the main aim of climate sceptics is to block the political measures for combating climate change. However, since they do not admit to this political posture, they choose instead to deny the scientific reality.
This month, Futuribles complements this socio-psychological analysis of climate-sceptical discourse with an – in this case, wholly scientific – analysis of what we know (or do not know) about climate change on our planet. Pierre Morel gives a detailed account of the state of our knowledge in the climate field and what we are able to predict in the medium/long-term. After reminding us of the influence of atmospheric meteorological processes on the climate, he specifies the extent of global warming observed since 1850 and the main origin of that warming, as revealed by the current state of knowledge: the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases. He then describes the changes in meteorological regimes (showing also the limits of climate simulation models), the modifications of hydrological regimes, and also the prospects for rises in sea levels. He also specifies the mechanisms that may potentially amplify all these phenomena and the climate disasters that might ensue. Lastly, he shows what are the scientific data that cannot be disregarded, the consequences of which are now inescapable (melting of the ice-caps, rises in sea level etc.), the only remaining uncertainty in this connection being the date at which these things will happen. “In this perspective,” Morel concludes, “the continuation of our model of civilization comes at the cost of a fundamental revision of the current paradigm of economic and demographic growth.”
Toutes les activités économiques requièrent une utilisation plus ou moins importante d’énergie, et l’accès à l’énergie est un enjeu majeur pour les pays en développement, car il conditionne leur développement économique et le bien-être de leurs populations. Les débats lors des conférences de l’ONU (Organisation des Nations unies) sur le climat, et notamment celle qui s’est tenue à la fin de l’année 2011 à Durban, ont le plus souvent opposé les grands pays, ou ...
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Le phosphate est une molécule clef pour les être vivants, et en particulier pour la croissance des plantes cultivées. Mais la ressource minière, qui permet de produire les engrais agricoles sources de phosphate, est non renouvelable et… se raréfie. Perspectives et enjeux pour une ressource stratégique pour l’agriculture.
La catastrophe nucléaire de Fukushima au Japon a provoqué une série de réactions dans le monde et tout particulièrement en Allemagne qui a pris la décision, dès mars 2011, de sortir définitivement du nucléaire qui assurait le quart de sa production électrique. Les modalités d?application de cette décision brutale et ses conséquences potentielles en Allemagne et en Europe sont l?objet de cette note de l?IFRI. Son auteur explicite dans sa première partie les grandes lignes de la ...
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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are a source of great distrust so far as French citizens are concerned, are also at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. This special issue which Futuribles is devoting to the GM question attests to this, through articles that are at times highly positive and favourable to the development of GMOs. These are counterbalanced here by Jacques Testart and Frédéric Prat calling for greater caution in the manipulation of living material.
Reminding us what GMOs are, and of the scientific hopes that many have vested in them, Testart and Prat show how the scientific controversies are far from being settled and how slow the promises of the GMO advocates have been in coming to fruition. They criticize the tendency to regard the genome as a Meccano set that can be manipulated without any impact on plant and animal life. In their view, matters are quite different. By manipulating genes, by promoting genetic mutations without controlling the risks of their spreading to other plants or even jumping barriers between (plant and animal) species, some scientists are playing “sorcerer’s apprentice” and hiding behind (pseudo-)scientific arguments that may well, in the longer term, not be at all progressive. It is essential, argue Testart and Prat, to show caution in this area – particularly as alternatives exist to take agricultural research forward – and to fall in with a democratic approach based on giving the public complete and transparent information.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are undeniably one of those subjects that do not provoke remotely the same reactions in North America as in Europe. Whereas the growing of GM crops is highly developed in the USA and arouses little or no controversy within American public opinion, this is an area in which Europeans are very cautious and even genuinely distrustful. As Daniel Boy shows in this article, drawing on Eurobarometer surveys of European citizens carried out over 15 years or so, there has never been a majority in the EU in favour of the development of GMOs for food production and, between 1996 and 2010, the proportion of those reluctant to see such a development actually increased. Above and beyond this general finding of a clear, sustained opposition among Europeans to GMOs in food, Boy shows the disparities that exist between the various European countries and presents reasons that may account for these differences.
Boy goes on to study the structure of European opinion in this field by sex, age and socio-professional category of the respondents, by their degree of “socialization” to science and their level of informedness. He also notes the importance of the level of knowledge of – and familiarization with – science in the attitude towards genetically modified foodstuffs. Lastly, Boy compares the attitudes of Europeans to GM foods with attitudes around animal cloning and the nanotechnologies, showing the great specificity of GMOs, which have been very distinctly and probably lastingly rejected (like animal cloning), thus blocking the development of this technological innovation in Europe. He nonetheless stresses that attitudes towards other innovations (such as nanotechnologies) in no way point towards similar failures in the future.
In this issue of Futuribles devoted to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Pierre Feillet offers an analysis of the main advantages of GMOs when it comes to achieving a sustainable food supply for everyone on the planet. Without concealing a number of aspects that remain controversial, Feillet begins by reminding us of the historical process that made it possible, through multiple forms of innovation in agricultural practice and research, to reach the point where plants and animals can be genetically modified. He then outlines the extent, location and nature of GM crops throughout the world (10% of cultivated land), before detailing another highly controversial issue in this area: the presence, within the food chain, of products from animals fed on genetically modified crops. He also recalls the important role played by micro-GMOs in the food industry.
After this overview, Feillet gets down to detail on the contentious issue that is GMPs (genetically modified plants) through three key lines of questioning. Are GMPs dangerous to health? Are there environmental risks involved in growing them? Who profits by them? Lastly, he offers some perspectives for the future of GMOs, taking the view that biologists will continue to optimize and diversify the genetic inheritance of GMOs with the aim of improving the human food supply in the long term and convincing those who are still reluctant to use them (including the French) of their value.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been an object of major controversy. For a large section of French public opinion, they have become the focal point of opposition to the manipulation of living material and of the rejection of a certain agricultural model. Yet, from the research standpoint, GMOs can represent one effective means of gaining knowledge of animal or plant life and the study of its interactions with the environment. In this field, as with many technological innovations, the emergence of controversies between science and society highlights the importance of involving the greatest possible number of citizens in decisions and the need to improve the participatory processes by which they can contribute to them. The experiment in which Anne Moneyron, Olivier Lemaire and Jean E. Masson were involved, as part of the process of setting up a GM grapevine rootstock field trial, attests to the rich results that may emerge from the participative construction of a project of this kind.
In order to carry out this trial while remaining responsive to the reactions of society, the general management of INRA, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, set up a Local Monitoring Committee following the recommendations of an interactive technological assessment. This Monitoring Committee involved most of the stakeholders (actors from the world of vine growing and the agricultural trade unions, conservation and consumer organizations, teachers, state representatives in the fields of agricultural development and food safety, and independent vine growers) who, over eight years of work and in a context where the technology was rejected to the maximum degree because of what it symbolized, collectively designed their own format of science-society debate. The research/action programme that has ensued has enabled the initial project to be re-thought and more research to be produced, because it has been based on a more complex set of questions that accords a legitimate role to all the actors. Proof if it were needed that a science-society dialogue is possible, even on such a controversial subject as GMOs.
David Sawaya, a specialist in plant biotechnology, writes here on the broad developmental trends we are likely to see in this sector up to the year 2030. He begins by recalling the general trends in world agriculture, beginning with the rise in demand for agricultural products that is linked to demographic growth, to the rise in average incomes and to the development of products, such as biofuels, derived from agricultural sources. He sees two possible options for responding to this: to increase the area of cultivable land – though the scope for manœuvre in this area is decreasing – or to increase yields, particularly thanks to advances in the plant biotechnologies, both transgenic and non-transgenic.
After reminding us of the situation regarding GM crops worldwide, David Sawaya presents the prospects for the development of GM crops in light of the existing data. He also points out the changes there have been in the characteristics most sought after within plant biotechnology, showing that the first-generation characteristics (resistance to pests and herbicides) are tending to give way to second-generation characteristics that are more agronomic in character (resistance to various kinds of stress, better yields). He stresses the greater role of developing countries in terms of GM production – and also in research into plant biotechnology, which might increase in the future. Lastly, he clarifies the importance of non-transgenic biotechnologies in the improvement of plant species.
Despite factors likely to slow the development of plant biotechnology – the concentration of the enterprises in the sector around multinationals focussed on large-scale crops to the detriment of small seed companies that are likely to develop innovations in less widespread species, and a highly sceptical public opinion – he takes the view that by 2030, if not indeed by 2015 in the case of the most widely cultivated species, there will be very few plants intended for commercial growing that have not been subjected to some form of biotechnological intervention.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. But the stakes go far beyond that, as is demonstrated here by Pierre-Benoit Joly. Questions of a more political nature arise, such as what vision of the world one wishes to see prevail in the future, both in the agricultural realm and in the much wider matter of the sustainable development of the planet.
Recalling, first, how regimes of innovation in the plant world have evolved over time, Joly stresses that we have moved from traditional skills and practices to an initial regime of innovation based on state agronomists and seed companies, which has itself evolved towards a “molecular, private, globalized” regime of innovation heavily encouraged by the granting, in the 1980s, of permission to patent living organisms. This has led to agricultural markets becoming tied up to a large extent by a number of major companies and to research being focussed on a small number of species and on GMOs. However, this commitment to GMOs has given rise to much criticism, involving the leaders of the “biotech oligopoly” in a crisis of legitimacy. Hence the efforts made by these parties over several years to legitimate their enthusiasm for GMOs both economically and politically.
It is to this “techno-political” work of legitimation that Pierre-Benoit Joly turns in the second part of his article. Thanks to the privatization of innovation and the globalization of activities, the big biotech multinationals are gradually winning acceptance for their view of the world, by way, among other things, of co-production of the regulation of the risks inherent in innovations (the emergence of a “soft law” lowering the level of mandatory constraint by states) and by intensive lobbying within public institutions and the establishment of “epistemic communities” (networks aimed at bending international law in their direction). Joly shows, lastly, how these players – and particularly Monsanto, which he studies more specifically here – are privatizing the notion of sustainable development in agriculture (by way of ethical charters, for example), so as to make their activities essential to its attainment. This is an “enlistment” operation that is very well described here, though it can still be countered when its workings are properly understood.
The debate that has been going on for several years, particularly in France, on the wisdom of introducing and developing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has polarized opinion among the various stakeholders, producing great distrust within the public on the topic and often helping to cloud the issues within the field. This is one of the reasons why Futuribles decided to devote almost all of this March issue to GMOs, hoping thereby to cast light on the ins and outs of this question for its readers by providing very diverse points of view on – among other things – the economic, scientific, regulatory, sociological aspects of the question.
Before going into detail on this enormous range of questions, Cécile Désaunay offers a brief insight into what GMOs are, the state of research into them and the prospects they might open up in the medium-to-long term. After reminding us of the definition of GMOs and the upsurge of research in this area, she outlines the main existing applications and the lines of research that have found most favour with industry (in its aim, largely, of reducing both production costs and the use of pollutants), agriculture, the food sector and medicine. She emphasizes the risks inherent in this biotechnology so far as the environment and human or animal health are concerned, before stressing the obstacles the sector faces and the questions raised by the concentration of research among a handful of big companies. Working from this base and judging in accordance with their own priorities and values, any reader will be able, by referring to the very informative articles in this issue, to appraise the costs/benefits/risks of the large-scale use of GMOs.
Association de chefs d’entreprise du monde agricole créée en 1987, le club Déméter est un lieu de réflexions internes, d’échanges et débats relatifs à l’agriculture et à l’agroalimentaire français, européen et mondial. Il publie chaque année un rapport sur les perspectives et prospectives agricoles avec un thème majeur. Ainsi en 2000, il s’agissait des filières agroalimentaires ; cette année, un dossier est consacré à l’eau et la sécurité alimentaire. En 2013, le rapport s’intéresse ...
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Depuis une vingtaine d’années, la consommation mondiale de terres rares a explosé, car ces matériaux sont devenus indispensables à de nombreux biens. Mais, alors que la Chine détient un quasi-monopole sur leur production, et n’hésite plus à émettre des quotas d’exportation, les pays consommateurs tentent de reprendre la main sur leur approvisionnement.
Une entreprise japonaise baptisée IHI NeoG Algae LLC s’est constituée à l’été 2011 avec pour objectif la commercialisation d’un biocarburant produit à partir d’une algue aux propriétés spécifiques dénommée Enomoto Alga. Les microalgues, riches en huiles lipidiques, recèlent un potentiel prometteur pour la production de biocarburants. Néanmoins, le processus de développement n’en est encore qu’au stade des recherches en laboratoire. Il faudra encore plusieurs années pour parvenir à maîtriser l’ingénierie des procédés (sélection ...
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Le terme « négaWatt » a été créé en 1989 par Amory Lovins, directeur du Rocky Mountain Institute 1 et auteur du livre Facteur 4 2. Il désigne une unité de mesure théorique de l’énergie économisée. L’association négaWatt a imaginé un scénario réaliste de transition énergétique pour la France, fondé sur des stratégies d’économie d’énergie — soit d’exploitation du gisement de « négaWatts » — permettant d’atteindre l’autosuffisance énergétique et de s’orientervers un « authentique développement soutenable ».
Continuing the series of contributions on the Mediterranean basin, begun in Futuribles in 2011, this article by Yvette Veyret reminds us of the extent to which, despite the attractive image traditionally associated with the region, it is subject to various kinds of risks and not always well prepared to deal with them. First, the geological risks – earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and landslides – are far from negligible, as various natural disasters that have occurred in the past have shown. Yvette Veyret reminds us of the nature, potential intensity and very serious consequences which might ensue in a region that is distinctly more densely populated and urbanized today than it was only a few decades ago. Second, the region remains highly exposed to climatic risks, beginning with large-scale flooding in autumn, which may ravage entire villages within a few hours. The spectacular forest fires we see each year in the south of France, in Corsica or in Greece complete the picture.
The Mediterranean region is one of the areas most exposed to natural risks, but these thankfully manifest themselves on a generally more moderate scale than elsewhere. Nevertheless, as this article shows, the actions that could reduce the scope of such risks through prevention, protection and the informing of the public remain inadequate or ill-understood, or clash with other interests and are unable decisively to reduce the region’s vulnerability. Lastly, as is often the case, it is the poorest groups that are the most exposed and natural dangers serve, in this regard, as indicators of social and spatial inequalities.
In this second contribution to our new Paroles d’acteurs (Actors’ Words) feature, Bertrand Collomb takes up his pen again to show us, in the light of a recent trip to China, how that country is aiming to deal with the enormous environmental challenges confronting it. Driven by an unprecedented economic boom, China has enormous energy and raw material needs and these are growing as its population is developing and increasingly catching up with Western styles of life. Though it wishes to steer clear of binding international engagements, the Chinese government has nonetheless taken stock of the seriousness of the environmental situation and, in the wake of the 2006-10 Five Year Plan, which was already sensitive to these questions, has given relatively broad consideration in its Twelfth Plan (2011-15) to the means of promoting more sustainable development within the country (reduction of CO2, emissions, energy saving, sustainable cities etc.). Bertrand Collomb here outlines the main orientations of that Twelfth Plan.
Pour imaginer ce que pourrait être le monde dans 100 ans, la BBC a demandé aux internautes de se livrer à un exercice de prospective : certaines prédictions ont ensuite été sélectionnées et décortiquées par deux prospectivistes (Ian Pearson et Patrick Tucker) selon leur degré de probabilité. Ainsi, il serait hautement probable que, dans 100 ans, nous puissions nous brancher sur ordinateur pour faire fonctionner notre cerveau plus vite : selon Ian Pearson, à l’horizon 2075, les habitants des pays développés ...
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L’accès à l’énergie est un élément clef du bien-être des populations et du développement d’un pays. Or, si l’électricité est en quelque sorte le sésame qui ouvre à la modernité, près de 1,3 milliard d’habitants de la planète n’ont pas encore un accès direct à cette énergie tandis que 2,7 milliards d’entre eux n’utilisent que de la biomasse (bois, déchets végétaux) pour cuisiner.
Le charbon, que l’on considérait au début du XXe siècle comme une énergie du passé, a permis de faire face à près de la moitié de la croissance de la demande mondiale d’énergie pendant la dernière décennie, avec une consommation croissant à un rythme annuel de 4,4 %, très supérieur à celui du gaz (2,7 %) et du pétrole (1,1 %). Il représentait 28 % de la demande mondiale d’énergie primaire en 2010. Cette consommation devrait continuer à ...
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Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.