The currents events which are hurting France, the huge fires in Gironde and the extreme temperatures observed in the Western part of the country, unavoidably are reviving the worries about the evolution of the climate due to the greenhouse gas emissions. But if the linking can be useful to mobilize economic agents and families and to make adopted the appropriate measures, that must not delude people. From all the time and in every country inhabitants have had to face natural catastrophes. In the Landes forests, not far from the current affected zones, it was during a long time talked about the “fires season” until a better management of the plantings made them practically disappearing. We have also for a long time evocated the 1947 and 1949 canicules but, at that time, Michel Butor wrote, when he analyzed Jules Verne works, that we were mainly worrying about a cooling which would transform the earth in a death planet as Luna.
In the world, catastrophes have constituted a permanent reality, much before being afraid by the climate disruption. A tidal wave inundated the South of Thailand in 1999, the Katrina typhoon, in the south-east of the U.S., devasted whole territories making thousands of victims, as the Fukushima tsunami which also submerged a nuclear power plant that the managers had not enough protected. The neighboring received the radiations which constrained public authorities to decide a total isolation. But these radiations were not at the origin of the thousands of deaths of the people which had been drowned.
It remains that human activity, through the accumulation in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas has generated a new threat against which appropriate policies must be delivered but it is necessary to take into account two indisputable realities. What has provoked the climate warming, it is the accumulation all along the time of the greenhouse gas emissions. So it must be admitted, when countries responsibilities are mentioned, to evaluate them with all the passed emissions and not only with the levels of one year alone. Emerging countries, China and India in particular, have known a very strong growth of their emissions but their contribution to the CO2 inventory in the atmosphere remains inferior to these of the developed countries, the United States at the first position and the European Union.
The second point, it is that the negative effects of the emissions are at the global level and not at the local one. If France reduces its emissions, it will not get any real advantage for itself if the other countries do not do the same and it is the whole meaning and the importance of the past agreements resulting from the Conferences on Climate. Its share in the total emissions is very low, inferior to 1% both because its population is inferior to 1% of planet population and because its economic model thanks to nuclear carries very low emissions. As a comparison, per inhabitant, France emits near twice less CO2 than Germany.
British Petroleum publishes for 70 years statistics on the production and the consumption of energy. These last years it extends its researches through adding CO2 emissions. It is possible to take from it three points. The economic crisis which has followed the pandemic has provoked a fall of the emissions in 2020 but these ones have recovered in 2021. So there is not yet a trend change. The second point is that the way, by far the most efficient, to reduce emissions is to renounce to coal to the benefice of natural gas to produce power. American numbers are eloquent. In ten years, emissions have fallen by 12%. To produce electricity, in five years, the utilization of natural gas has increased by 14% when coal one fell by 27,5%. Emerging countries emissions, them, have increased with China (19,6%), India (47,5%) and Indonesia (21,5%). So the achievements of the objectives announced in the successive COPs will be very difficult to reach.
One thing is sure, it is that it is not France action, even if it is very convincing, which is going to weight on these worrying trends. In the future, to base public action only on environmental objectives will be less and less credible. it is why It is important to justify the indispensable energy transition also by economic considerations. The impact on the planet will be feeble but it will be nonetheless positive.
The crisis generated by the invasion of Ukraine has shown that the intermittent energies couldn’t constitute a panacea. Europe, at last, has admitted it and has classified natural gas and nuclear among the power production modes being accepted to benefit from European financings. The nuclear revival in France, after ten years of shillyshallying is essential but not enough. Only the reduction of energy consumption under all its forms will allow to reducing France foreign dependence without slowing growth. It is why it is important to dissociate economic growth and energy consumption. That suppose three kinds of actions.
There is first a huge pedagogic effort to be accomplished. Instead of alarming and announcing the end of the world, it is essential to convince everyone it is in its own interest to make behaviors changing. Enterprises as persons must we aware about the respect of the regulation relative to lightning, heating and air conditioned. That doesn’t need any investment and the effects are immediate.
To the State, then, its duty is to launch Great Works programs. The first one is about nuclear. There is urgency. Power consumption will increase in the future due to the reduction of the fossil fuels use. It is the only available, permanent and decarbonated source. It is necessary to hire and to form engineers and technicians and to adopt a clear line of action regarding the reactors. Only the modernized versions of the current EPR can constitute a credible answer, models with low capacity do not exist yet and to rely on them for the future misunderstands a reality which is impossible to get away, the scarcity of the production sites.
The second program is about the logistic revolution and merchandises transportation. When France, due to its geographical position at the center of Europe is a transit country, the share of rail transportation is hardly above 10%, i.e. one of the continent lowest. The SNCF investment program for the years to come must put the priority to the coming back of the merchandises on its tracks. That depends on the realization of the Lyon by-passing and on a better management of the network connections to increase its capacity and so to give a higher share to the freight.
At last, instead of supporting Tesla acquisitions coming from China or from the U.S., the priority must be put on the electrification of public and professional vehicles fleets and on offering the appropriate financings to enterprises. Like that, the particles emissions generated by diesel engines, which are noxious for breathing and which constitute the main pollution source in the cities, will be reduced.
France responsibility in the climate warming is inversely proportional to the place it occupies in the political debate. So we must profit of it to adopt the measures which, in the same time, are contributing to the reduction of the emissions and are reinforcing the country energy independence, which will contribute to the reduction of the trade deficit, to employment and to the purchasing power.