Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
La demande d'énergie est en constante augmentation tandis que les ressources principalement utilisées aujourd'hui, les énergies fossiles, se raréfient et que leur prix augmente. Quelles sont les perspectives tant de la demande que de l'offre ? Quelles pistes pour pallier la divergence de leurs évolutions ?
In this opinion piece, Pierre Gonod reflects on Hurricane Katrina which struck the southern United States at the end of August 2005. He recounts the analysis made a year earlier by a specialist in risk assessment after Cyclone Ivan spared Louisiana, predicting the events that occurred in 2005 with astonishing clarity.
No notice was taken of this warning about the shortcomings in the system for coping with risks from natural disasters, in Louisiana, but was this the result of lack of foresight or was it an accommodation with destiny? Because, as Pierre Gonod stresses, the victims of Katrina were mainly poor, therefore almost all Black - a "natural cleansing" that could have suited some decision-makers, both local and non-local.
Pierre Gonod strongly condemns the policy actions (or rather inaction) that led to this situation, calling for foresight that gives human beings and humanity top priority once again. Arising from this is the project to which he is contributing: to develop an "anthropolitical" approach to foresight in which politics would be unequivocally geared to serving people, not just in the short term but in the medium and, above all, long term as well.
For the majority of decision-makers, in both the political and economic spheres, sustainable development has become an unavoidable concept that must be taken into account in most fields of activity. For some years a new approach, called the "service economy", has been evolving, able to contribute to sustainable development, in particular because it could significantly reduce both the consumption of raw materials and the production of polluting emissions.
Dominique Bourg and Nicolas Buclet describe in this article what the "service economy" involves, i.e. "substituting the sale of the use of a good for the sale of the good itself". With the help of actual experiments on the part of various firms (such as Michelin, Electrolux, Xerox), they show the benefits of this approach as well as the problems and pitfalls that must be avoided in order not to fail. They also stress that adopting this approach, which means giving priority to the supply of services in the long term over the production of goods in the narrow sense, does not hinder innovation, rather the opposite.
Although the service economy is still little known and too rarely practised in the business world, it is undoubtedly a key way forward towards sustainable development. However, because it overturns long-established patterns of production and consumption, major efforts will probably be required in order to convince both producers and consumers that it is worthwhile.
What a strange country France is, where the state claims to be the sole and exclusive embodiment of the common good and yet, as a result, it is incapable of tolerating the existence of independent agencies where discussions could take place that might challenge the rightness of public decision-making. Jean-Jacques Salomon provides yet another example, writing from his own experience as the President of the Collège de la prévention des risques technologiques (CPRT), set up by Michel Rocard when he was French Prime Minister.
Jean-Jacques Salomon starts by stating what he understands by the precautionary principle, which is all too frequently accused of paralysing the spirit of invention and innovation necessary for progress. He goes on to stress how important it is to have independent agencies capable of assessing advances in science and technology, given that the applications are, as we all know, becoming ever more ambivalent, their potential outcomes ranging from the best to the worst. Yet, as the former President of the CPRT argues, these agencies are misfits in the French political and institutional system, and the authorities therefore suspect them of wanting to hinder the projects drawn up by the orthodox civil service.
After explaining how the CPRT operated, illustrating his account with several particularly striking examples, Jean-Jacques Salomon describes how the Collège finally came to be closed down. In addition to this specific instance, he obviously also demonstrates clearly the French public authorities' desire to run everything their way without countenancing the slightest opposition, nor even accepting that their choices should be a matter for democratic debate, highly necessary though that is.
For more than half a century the motor car has been one of the success stories of French manufacturing industry. Even if it is no longer as true as it once was that "if Renault sneezes, France catches cold", now that services account for an ever larger share of the economy and the car industry is increasingly automated (today it accounts for only 1.3% of French jobs), the sector retains a symbolic importance in the public mind.
Nevertheless, as Pierre Bonnaure and Véronique Lamblin argue here, the car is changing rapidly, both outside and inside (with greater use of electronics). This is in response to the expectations of consumers, rising safety standards, environmental concerns, etc., and car manufacturers are therefore being forced to be more and more innovative. Added to this are the prospect of fossil fuel reserves running out, which raises the question of how vehicles should be powered in future, and the emergence on world markets quite soon of major vehicle manufacturers in developing countries such as China and India.
Against this background, competition is likely to be fierce and investment in research, especially, must no longer be put off, in France and more generally in the rest of Europe.
Tous nos modèles de développement reposent sur une exploitation intensive de ressources fossiles, le pétrole en particulier mais aussi le gaz naturel, le charbon et l’uranium. Or, les réserves sont limitées tandis que la consommation ne cesse d’augmenter. L’on a beau ricaner sur le rapport du Club de Rome de 1972 (dont le titre, en français, Halte à la croissance, était trompeur), le fait est là. Et l’envolée actuelle du prix du pétrole ne fait sans ...
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The "Plan Bleu", which was launched following an intergovernmental meeting in Split in 1977, is an independent agency that has been studying the Mediterranean region for almost 30 years, in particular thanks to the research centre at Sophia-Antipolis in southern France. In line with its brief, in 1986/7 the Blue Plan examined possible futures for the region by building scenarios based on the interaction of classic assumptions about economic and demographic growth (trend scenarios) with assumptions about different policies of North/South and South/South co-operation, also taking account of environmental and development considerations (alternative scenarios). Possible or desirable visions of the future for the Mediterranean basin were derived for the medium (2000) and long term (2025), especially with regard to water resources.
Since then, the Blue Plan has regularly tried to update this exercise. In this article Jean Margat, its vice-president, summarizes the main conclusions of the most recent effort to foresee the situation for water in the Mediterranean region in 2010 and 2025. As he stresses, there is still much uncertainty about the future of water resources in the area (especially as a result of changes in the climate and in the lifestyles of people living there, as well as of the environmental policies that are to be implemented), but it is virtually certain that the resources will continue to decline and the gap between North and South will continue to widen.
For almost two years now the strong Chinese demand for fossil and mineral raw materials regularly hits the headlines of the economic press because of the impact it has on prices. Nevertheless, the preoccupation of the media and of some people in the developed countries is quite recent, according to Jacques Varet.
In fact, the long-term trend had been towards declining demand for mineral raw materials: as developed economies were based less and less on physical goods and moved their manufacturing abroad, against a background of stable prices, it appears that firms and public authorities in the sectors concerned were led to believe that there was no risk of shortages of mineral resources and that economic growth depended less and less on these sorts of commodities. The recent sharp rise in the prices of certain metals (such as copper) are taken to be a first sign of the weakness of this view. As Jacques Varet argues, the problem had merely shifted towards the developing countries and has now resulted in genuine pressures on mineral resources and the extractive industries.
Illustrating his argument with figures and graphs, the author stresses how mistaken it is to think that the way these resources are being exploited today is compatible with sustainable development over the long term. He also criticizes the European Union and France for giving up on the extractive sector and for failing to make adequate investments of both money (for exploration) and research. Unlike the United States or even China, both of which are very active in this area, Europe is no longer equipped to analyse the data or to search for new mineral deposits as the new situation requires. If Europe does not place this issue at the top of its political agenda, the EU risks falling behind in a sector that is once again of great strategic importance.
After 20 years of efforts, especially under the auspices of the programme "Solidarité eau" created by Stéphane Hessel, and constant struggles on the part of certain well-known people, such as Pierre-Frédéric Ténière-Buchot, a law has just been passed in France allowing local authorities and agencies responsible for water supply to earmark part of their income so that it can be spent directly on work aimed at improving supplies of clean water and sewerage for poor people in developing countries.
The authors show how important this law is, in part because it promotes decentralized arrangements for international aid and is likely to channel much larger amounts of assistance than that provided by the state.
Following frequent warnings from a variety of economists and environmentalists in the 1970s and 1980s, sustainable development and environmental issues have become part of the mainstream political agenda in most industrialized countries, and some have even been integrated into the strategies of firms. There is now a quasi-consensus around the world as to the long-term risks involved in the use of natural resources, climate change, etc.
However, for several years now some dissenting voices have been heard, including that of the Dane Bjørn Lomborg, who reckons that the warnings of environmental catastrophe have been overdone and that radically different conclusions can be drawn from the data at hand. For instance, he argues that the situation is improving steadily and there is no reason to fear problems with the environment because market forces will ensure that everything will turn out right.
Hard on the heels of a first analysis that focussed exclusively on ecological issues, Bjørn Lomborg launched the "Copenhagen consensus", an initiative bringing together a group of international experts, mainly economists (including several Nobel prizewinners), with the aim of identifying a list of priorities for action, relating to the environment and also poverty and underdevelopment. Max Falque has studied this initiative and its first results, which he outlines here, along with the main elements of Bjørn Lomborg's views.
To conclude the discussion of the polemics generated by the work of Bjørn Lomborg, in this article Jacques Theys, former scientific head of the French Institute of the Environment, argues that the success of the book The Skeptical Environmentalist reflects the genuine malaise affecting environmental issues for almost a decade.
Jacques Theys stresses, first, that this book - quite apart from the fact that it fails to "demystify" the alarmist studies by militant environmentalists because Lomborg is himself too biased by his own blind enthusiasm for market forces - has a very static vision of the environment. Far from being forward-looking, it confirms a trend that has been latent for some years in which the approach taken to environmental issues is that of the late 1970s, as if the aims could not change over time.
Jacques Theys then argues that the unexpected success of this book - plenty of others have expressed similar views without attracting as much media attention - is linked to a certain shift in public opinion in the industrialized countries towards a dedramatization of environmental concerns.
Finally, he is sorry that the criticisms generated by Lomborg as to the relevance of the statistical indicators available have not led to a review of the way that data about the environment are gathered and information is disseminated, even though the methods are unsatisfactory.
In this contribution to the discussion of the writings of Bjørn Lomborg, André Lebeau looks again at the book that brought notoriety to its Danish author: The Skeptical Environmentalist. The book was originally published in Denmark in 1998 and caused quite a rumpus when the English translation appeared in 2001; it has just been translated into French (2004). Lomborg challenges most of the analyses warning us about the state of our planet and the urgent need to modify human activities in order to minimize their impact on the environment. Invoking an alternative "scientific" assessment of the available data, he derives far more optimistic conclusions: the world is doing well, indeed is getting better and better, and market forces can only enhance these improvements, including their effect on the natural environment.
André Lebeau examines and decodes this view for Futuribles. In particular he demonstrates how the scientific arguments are badly handled, abridged and sometimes distorted in order to strengthen Lomborg's position which, in Lebeau's view, has more to do with politics than science. As to the book's success as a bestseller, he puts its arguments into critical perspective and tries to understand why there has been such enthusiasm for the book among supporters of the free market.
En guise d’introduction, Hugues de Jouvenel a rappelé que nous étions à la veille de l’entrée en vigueur du protocole de Kyoto (il est entré en application le mercredi 16 février 2005 dans les 127 pays du monde l’ayant ratifié). L’expertise de Pierre Radanne, a-t-il souligné, s’avère donc tout à fait bienvenue pour nous en éclairer les enjeux.
The British economist W.S. Jevons (1835-1882) was described by Schumpeter, in his monumental History of Economic Analysis, as "one of the most truly original economists who ever lived". Nevertheless, he does not mention Jevons' book on The Coal Question, published in 1865, which warned of the possibility that the coal deposits of the United Kingdom would inevitably run out in the long term, which led the government to set up a commission of enquiry on this matter (it concluded that the coal seams would be exhausted by 1988...).
Looking at the issue as an economist and not as a geologist or engineer, Jevons challenges the idea that "our coal seams will be found emptied to the bottom, and swept clean like a coal-cellar". In his opinion, the real problem lay instead with the gradual disappearance of the comparative advantage Britain then enjoyed relative to its competitors thanks to the size and relative cheapness of its coal reserves. He drew the depressing conclusion that he put in the form of the following dilemma: "We have to make the momentous choice between brief greatness and longer continued mediocrity."
This disenchanted conclusion calls forth two comments. The first, just an aside, is that it was couched in remarkably similar terms to those that the economist Augustin Cournot was to use in 1877 in his book Revue sommaire des doctrines économiques, in which he talks about the dilemma of governments that, faced with the prospect of coal reserves running out "within five or six centuries", will have to ask themselves "whether it is better for the fire in the hearth of civilization should be kept alight as long as possible or whether it should burn more quickly and give out more intense heat". The other comment is more serious and concerns Jevons' curiously defeatist attitude to the loss of Britain's comparative advantage as coal became more expensive in the long term - as if this alone would be enough to bring an end to the country's hegemony...
Ensemble des techniques et des connaissances liées à l'utilisation du vivant dans les processus de production, les biotechnologies recouvrent un large champ d'investigation qui va de la santé (biotechnologie rouge) à l'agriculture (biotechnologie verte) en passant par la chimie de transformation des ressources renouvelables (biotechnologie blanche). Le récent rapport de Jean-Yves Le Déaut, député de Meurthe-et-Moselle et vice-président de l'OPECST (Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques), a fait le point sur " la place ...
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Les scénarios globaux que Shell construit régulièrement depuis les années 1970 sont célèbres. Cette nouvelle édition, présentée lors du forum économique de Davos en janvier 2005, fait donc événement. Dans la précédente édition, en 2001, deux mondes étaient opposés de manière un peu schématique : le scénario Business Class était marqué par une intégration économique plus poussée et le déclin du pouvoir des États-nations, dont l'élite internationale et les États-Unis étaient les acteurs majeurs, et celui nommé Prism était caractérisé ...
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Le Comité directeur du Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, évaluation des écosystèmes pour le millénaire) donne le ton : « l'humanité vit au-dessus de ses moyens ». Ton alarmiste certes, mais pas catastrophiste. Ce document se veut avant tout - et malgré des incertitudes assumées - une évaluation scientifiquement fondée de l'état des écosystèmes. Et, en retour, un guide pour l'action publique. Appelé de ses v?ux par Kofi Annan en 2000, ce projet pharaonique a mobilisé, de 2001 à 2005, plus de ...
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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.