Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
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.
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.
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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Ce rapport annuel analyse les évolutions des marchés mondiaux de produits, ainsi que les perspectives à long terme des principaux produits agricoles, et met en évidence l'influence qu'exercent sur ces marchés l'évolution des conditions économiques et les politiques publiques. Chaque édition fait ressortir certains des risques et incertitudes susceptibles d'infléchir les perspectives des marchés agricoles. Dans cette édition, les projections ont été élargies de manière à couvrir un plus grand nombre de pays en développement, parmi ...
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Cet ouvrage révèle l’utilité de la prospective appliquée à l’élaboration d’une stratégie à long terme d’un institut de recherche œuvrant dans le domaine de l’agriculture, de l’alimentation et de l’environnement. Il décrit comment concilier les avancées ambivalentes de la science, notamment des sciences de la vie, et les besoins d’un développement durable.
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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Global warming and the risks of a shortage of fossil fuels are two of the important issues that modern societies as well as the whole planet must face in the course of the 21st century. In addition to the efforts required with regard to private energy consumption, transport and techniques of industrial production, one sector that still has a considerable potential for improving its ability to conserve energy is housing.
As three professionals working in this sector (for the Centre for Science and Technology in Building) explain in this article, many techniques already exist and further progress could also be made both to improve overall energy savings and to increase the capacities for housing units to produce their own energy from renewable sources.
Various technical solutions have been proposed by specialists in energy conservation, such as using specialized equipment (solar panels, double glazing, better insulation, etc.) and the development of "positive energy buildings". These show that the potential of the housing sector has been relatively neglected as a source of energy savings, especially in France (Germany and Switzerland are much further ahead in this area). The authors therefore make some proposals for ways of encouraging the public authorities to create incentives for people to choose an "intelligent" approach to energy saving in their homes.
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.