Technological bet : Will Science repair our planet ?

Par Léonore Gandy, Lucile Chassel, Ilyes Barre, Loïc Gisselaire, Olivier Blessing, Quentin Fornas, Nael Fesquet, étudiants ESTA Belfort, 05/2022

Mots clés : #greentechnology #globalwarming #decarbonation #biomass #co2captation #ademe #scenario

Our way of life is the result of technological advancements spurred by the first industrial revolution, which enabled us to overcome millennial challenges and show up where we are today. Science has allowed us to perform miracles that were previously reserved for spiritual entities: Agricultural yields are excellent, oil has replaced elbow grease, and medicine allows us to increase our life expectancy. However, after decades of uninterrupted growth, and despite warnings, we are witnessing unprecedented changes that we will have to deal with sooner or later. Overconsumption, pollution in all forms, decreased agricultural yields due to soil depletion, and mass extinction are all factors. In a century, humans left an indelible mark on our planet. So, what should we do in a world where technological innovation solves all of our problems? We choose the same approach because we are afraid of losing what we have: a life of abundance, comfort, and security. In this case, let us imagine a future in which technology solves our problems, based on two ADEME scenarios: green technologies and the reparative bet. This organization has, in fact, listed four possible scenarios for reducing human impact on climate change:

  • Frugal generation (scenario 1) : Respect for nature, use of robust and easily repairable technologies (no programmed obsolescence), limitation of constructions and renovation of old ones, modification of eating habits and reasoned mobilization of forest resources, reduction of mobility and favoring of soft transport, reduction of industrialization and favoring of short circuits.
  • Territorial cooperation (scenario 2) : Acceleration of the food transition, development of advanced biofuels, energy renovation of buildings, densification of housing (building sharing), local mobility, industrial transport focused on rail and waterways, recycling and re-industrialization in targeted sectors.
  • Green Technologies (scenario 3) : Maximum use of biomass for multiple purposes, electrification of vehicles, renovation and decarbonization of housing, decarbonization of industry through the use of hydrogen and electrification of processes, capture of CO2 emitted by biomass.
  • Restorative betting (scenario 4) : Highly competitive food industry, improvement of equipment efficiency and creation of efficient technologies, exploitation of natural resources and recycling pushed to its maximum thanks to advanced technologies.
Figure 1: ADEME’s 4 scenarios
Source: Adapted from ADEME data (2022), accessed in April 2022

Each scenario changes our habits in order to achieve carbon neutrality and build a better future. While scenarios 3 and 4 are more about changing consumer behavior and new technologies, scenario 4 is a risky bet on CO2 capture and storage technologies, BECCS and DACCS, which are still in the early stages of development. But all four scenarios have one thing in common: we need to act quickly so that the changes, which will take a long time to be accepted and implemented by the greatest number of people, can be applied and have an impact before it is too late.

What would the future look like if we develop green technologies (scenario 3) ?

Following the third scenario of the Ademe report, it is about developing technologies that enable us to respond to environmental challenges rather than changing our behavior to be sober. It’s not so much about changing « what » we do as it is about changing « how » we do it. Companies, for instance, produce slightly less than they do today in terms of output, but they are still significantly more decarbonised. The means of transport are a bit smaller but the vehicles are lighter and electric: this is how we look at how to get closer to carbon neutrality in this scenario. Nature is seen as a set of resources to be developed, used and optimized for the benefit of humans, in a relationship of mutual growth between natural ecosystems and intense human activity in all fields of the economy. Technologies are at the service of the environment, as a means of knowledge, but also of opportunities because they bring flexibility and also new capacities of adaptation.


Turning to a decarbonized and sustainable production, our dependence on fossil fuels will decrease. Our objective is to capture CO2 and store it in the soil while developing biomass, mainly forestry, to produce energy. We are developing the production of renewable fuels from biomass, to produce 98 TWh, despite the 76% drop in demand for liquid fuels due to electrification. This is still very costly because the demand for decarbonized energy is driving up its price. We can also note that with a strong intensification of digital technology, data centers will consume 10 times more than in 2020. Concerning mobility, the State regulates infrastructures and encourages massive telecommuting and carpooling. Thus, even if an increase of 13% of additional kilometers per person are to be expected, 30% are trips on foot or by bike.


Concerning food and agriculture, the choices are to reduce our meat consumption by 30%, and at the same time develop the consumption of organic and local products in order to reach 30%. We increase the surface of energy crops and we intensify agriculture with an important use of synthetic inputs to compensate. In order to preserve the biodiversity, we set up a natural capital

In a few statistics: 

  • 30% reduction in meat consumption
  • 86% reduction of greenhouse gas emission in the industry
  • 60% of the materials used are from recycling

Can we repair our mistakes and preserve our lifestyle ? (scenario 4)

This last scenario is the one in which our way of life is most preserved by relying on our ability to repair our damage. It is also the one that our societies naturally gravitate toward because it refers to an ideal of growth and complete control of Man over his environment. Aid to struggling countries is accelerating globalization.

This fourth scenario is based on two dynamics:

  • A global middle class that contributes to robust growth in production and consumption
  • A digital revolution that makes life easier for citizens and businesses. (Digital technology is very energy-intensive)

Strategic stocks are established in this scenario to deal with climatic hazards that will become more frequent and, undoubtedly, more powerful. Man is able to technically master nature and propose a targeted solution to each ecological challenge.

In the face of climatic hazards, an insurance market is established to protect each individual from the consequences. Everyone will be required to subscribe to and contribute to mandatory insurance policies that will cover these climatic risks.

Agriculture and the food industry have become increasingly specialized. Meat consumption has decreased by 10% and is now supplemented by alternative proteins (insects or synthetic). Agriculture is evolving into a sector that employs all available technologies to maximize output while minimizing environmental impact. This transition, however, will result in a 65 percent increase in irrigation water.

In terms of housing, new constructions are maintained and only half of the existing ones will be renovated to a very high level of insulation (low-energy buildings). The performance of equipment is improved to combine technological innovation and energy efficiency.

Because of an increase in long-distance travel, the number of kilometers traveled by individuals increased by 39%. (mainly air travel). The individual car retains its central position, but despite limited access to available resources, the use of technological progress (electrification, biogas, biofuels, renewable energies) is increasing.

In a world where consumption outpaces production, markets rely heavily on imports to satisfy the population by providing an increasing number of options. Domestic production focusing on decarbonization, CO2 capture, and geological storage supplements these imports. Natural resources and significant recycling, at the cutting edge of technology, are used to meet resource needs by proposing ever-increasing production. As a result of these new technologies, industry, which is one of the most polluting sectors, will reduce its energy consumption by 19%.

In Scenario 4, we must rely on certain foreign countries’ specialization in the production of decarbonized or renewable gas. This action will result in a 51% increase in overall gas decarbonization.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and technological sinks are critical in this scenario because they will lead to industry decarbonization. This strategy has the effect of drastically altering the forestry landscape by removing hardwoods and replacing them with faster-growing softwoods.

In a few statistics:

  • 10% reduction in meat consumption
  • 19% reduction in energy consumption in industry
  • 45% of the materials used are from recycling

What are the different environmental and lifestyle outcomes between scenarios 3 and 4?

Let’s start with the societal point of view, there is no real difference between the 2 scenarios: the similarities and differences between the two ADEME scenarios are shown in Figure 2. One tends only towards a little sobriety while the other saves a mass consumption. Although the services provided by nature are optimized, it is above all a resource to be exploited.

For food, scenario 3 is more moderate: it foresees a decrease in meat consumption of 30% and also a share of organic food of 30%. Scenario 4 envisages a decrease of only 10%, supplemented by synthetic or vegetable proteins.

Concerning housing, a maintenance of new constructions is foreseen in the « repairing bet », for scenario 3, a deconstruction-reconstruction on a large scale is envisaged. As for renovation, while in scenario 4, half of the housing is renovated to a high level, scenario 3 goes further by renovating all the housing but not in a very efficient way.

Finally, for the mobility of the populations, the 3rd scenario opts for a regulation by the State as regards infrastructures, massive telecommuting or carpooling. 13% more km are covered per person on average but 30% of these trips are made on foot or by bicycle. The last scenario is looking for speed, it foresees an increase of 28% of km per person for 20% of the trips made on foot or by bike.

Concerning the environment, the comparison is made with the year 2015, during which we consumed 1772 TWh. Each sector (Industry, Transport, Residential, Tertiary and Agriculture) are each between 200 TWh for the tertiary and 500 TWh for agriculture. In 2050, scenario 3 « consumes » 1062 TWh, with a slightly lower share for agriculture than for the other sectors. The scenario is rather balanced with almost 4 equal shares for a total of 1287 TWh.

Renewable energies represent a very large share in all scenarios: 70% for scenario 4, between 81 and 87% for scenario 3. Although these rates are lower than in the other two scenarios, this represents a much larger amount of energy (900 TWh).

Figure 2: Comparison between scenario 3 and scenario 4
Source: Adapted from ADEME data (2022), accessed in April 2022

What risks is society willing to take to maintain its current way of life?

In a society where technology guarantees quick access to desired products and services at a lower cost, how and which classes of individuals would be willing to sacrifice some of their pleasures and needs?

Today’s population is increasingly encouraged to use what is necessary and not to overconsume, but this does not necessarily mean that they can live without some of the everyday things that are considered vital by their users.

Let’s give an example from scenario 3 and 4: reducing meat consumption during meals by 10 to 30% is for some a superhuman effort and for others a mere formality. It may also depend on the income of people belonging to these social classes. Indeed, some can afford to buy biologic products and consume synthetic or vegetable proteins (more expensive) to supplement their daily protein intake but some cannot.

The implication and the guilt for the survival of future generations is specific to each person, that is why we think that the best solution would be to impose a policy based on the last two scenarios, in small doses and thanks to social aid.

Should the future be a mix of all these scenarios?

Each scenario has its own voice and strategy. But can we imagine that from these scenarios we can create new ones?

We can imagine that combining these four scenarios will allow us to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We could combine ideas from all of them to create a new one that is more suited to French society. We believe that in order to achieve carbon neutrality, we will need a committed government and a motivated population. As a result, we could envision a scenario in which a strong policy would be directed and supported without being perceived as restrictive by the French. One solution that pops up is to put several proposals to a vote in a referendum. This would allow the government to determine whether or not the French are willing to make a sacrifice. The government would then commit to going in the direction chosen by the French. Obviously, this will have to be supplemented by public education about the climate emergency. His ideas will enable us to reach a commitment that is shared by all, making us far more effective.

Can we really imagine such scenarios in today’s globalized world?

Of course, we must keep in mind that the objectives outlined in the various ADEME scenarios are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve if each and every country does not play its part. The geopolitical stakes pose a significant challenge; specifically, how can the commercial exchanges that result from globalization be reduced? We can anticipate that future technologies will enable trade to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Scenario 3 envisions trade concentration in Europe in order to limit long transports and, as a result, create a continental economic model. In terms of the rest of the world, the poorest countries do not pollute the most because of their citizens’ living standards. Habits must be drastically altered, particularly in developed countries, but this will be difficult. Is the world willing to give up the convenience of globalization for the sake of environmental health?


Scenarios 3 & 4 are very ambitious and above all extremely risky. The anticipated changes are in all cases very long to put in place, whether it is a question of changing the behavior of companies in their production methods or the attitude and habits of consumers.

This bet is nevertheless necessary when the objective is to reach carbon neutrality.


Rejoindre la conversation

21 commentaires

  1. I enjoyed reading your article which highlights the climate emergency and the need to change our habits to save the world tomorrow.
    The scenarios proposed by ADEME are ambitious and full of good ideas. Both on the macro and micro economic aspects at the French level.
    New CO2 capture technologies have real potential for the future even if they are not yet mature. I think our salvation will come from these technologies. It is our responsibility as business engineers to promote these future solutions.
    What is the best scenario for you, especially the one that seems to be the most feasible ?

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. Hello Lucas, thank you very much for your comment, we don’t think that one scenario is better than another or more feasible. We should try to keep the best of each scenario in order to achieve the different goals of limiting global warming.


  2. This article was very interesting and enriching !
    Firstly, I thought that this article was very well structured :
    You began with an effective timeline that began with the industrial revolution and leads the way to our current world solution. You proposed multiple solutions and compared them in order to find the best and easiest one to set up. Furthermore, throughout the article, you were realistic and did not forget to mention any obstacles which really encourages the reader to question himself about the subject in a more extensive way.
    The video is a good complement to the article and summarizes the most important points. Moreover, I truly appreciated the joke when Nael ( wearing a sweater with a bike ) encouraged the solution  » flying » rather than « cycling ».
    To conclude, after an extensive reflexion, I agree that there are no perfect solutions and that the best one would be to mix a number of the proposed solutions. To be more precise, I would rather go along with a solution that looks the most like the scenario 3, but it has its incoveniants that would be replaced with ideas from the other solutions.
    You have mentionned numerous times that setting up a solution would take a long time to be accepted and implemented by the greatest number of people.
    If you had to pick the third scenario, how many years do you think it would take before having any results ?

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. Hello Yasmine, thanks for your comment.
      Scenario 3 does have a lot of interesting points.
      Concerning your question, it is quite complicated, for different reasons.
      The first is that a significant portion is concerned with changes in human behavior, which we know will take time.
      The second point is that most of the criteria are on their way: to name a few, we are recycling more and more, we are starting to implement some more decarbonization solutions, and cycling is becoming more widespread.
      The real question is whether this will continue to be the case and whether it will be sufficient to meet as many criteria as possible as soon as possible, and I believe only time will tell.


  3. This was an interesting read ! The various proposals are interesting both in their effects and consequences, but I am quite curious about your idea of voting for the prefered French scenario. What do you think we should do were the votes to decide on no scenario at all, considering the importance of the situation ?

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. Thanks for your comment!
      I think that in this situation, the best choice is to implement the necessary measures but not to implement the most problematic points. For example if we see through the votes what they want the least is to reduce their meat consumption, we shouldn’t impose them.


    2. Hello Benjamin and thank you for your comment.
      This is a very interesting question. Indeed, decisions with a lot of impacts on the climate are taken every day, even if not in the right direction. Every time a law is passed, it doesn’t have to be in line with a specific scenario and that’s not why it’s not a good decision!
      Finally, not every scenario takes into account everything that needs to be done for our environment, so it doesn’t matter if a law or decision passed is not linked to a scenario, the important thing is that it works for a better world for us and other living beings.
      I hope I have answered your question!


  4. Fascinating article although I find it surprising that there is so little mention of public transportation in green tech solutions. In France transports represent more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and therefore is a priority leaver to reduce our impact. Yet there are only mentions of walking, cycling and electric vehicles. What about trains, metro, trams and buses? They can all be electrified without even requiring any expensive batteries (if we decide to have trolleybuses) and are much more efficient in space and energy. I feel like the electrification of private vehicles is only kicking the can down the road while not solving anything. Cities are much more livable when they are free from space inefficient cars and miles of wide and hot tarmac in the summer. How does scenario 3 account for the use of mass transportation?


    1. Hello Matthieu, thank your for your comment. Your reflection is very interesting and I completely agree with you. Scenario 3 did not explore the part on public transport however ADEME explains in its report some things. Indeed, according to the National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC), it sets an objective of almost complete decarbonisation of the sector by 2050, with only maritime and air transport retaining a share of fossil fuels by this date. Which means that other transport will be electrified such as trains, metro and tramways…


  5. I enjoyed reading your article which is understandable and awareness raising for all of us. However, I wanted to ask you why you did not develop more scenarios 1 and 2, which still include excellent actions to implement? Did they seem less relevant to you?
    Thank you for your answer!


  6. Hello everyone!
    This article was very rewarding!
    First of all, I thought it was very well written and easy to understand:
    You started with a great timeline that starts with the industrial revolution and leads to the present day. You suggested several solutions and compared them to find the best and easiest to implement. Throughout the article, you had a fair and realistic view. You didn’t fail to mention the difficulties, which makes the reader question the subject in a more thoughtful way and ask himself what he can do, at his own pace.
    The video is amazing and helped me understand the article better and summarizes the most important points.
    In conclusion, I agree with you that there are no perfect solutions at this time.

    I did some research on my end and asked myself the following question: Do you plan to make other videos of this style to learn more?

    Aimé par 1 personne

    1. Hello Joyce,
      Thanks for your comment! We appreciate it.
      Indeed, we tried to take an « objective » and « open » point of view, to answer questions that anyone could ask.

      We do not plan to publish other videos, but you can consult the video of our colleagues which completes ours very well on the following link:


  7. This article was really interesting to read.
    The explanations of the scenarios 3 and 4 were clear, but choosing a scenario that fits what we need and what the planet needs is an other thing which you totally understood.
    You said that scenario 4 is a risky bet for the future, as it is relying on technologies that are not fully advanced and developed. But wouldn’t it be the best scenario to believe in, as keeping our lifestyles the same and digitalization are becoming more and more important is our society ?


    1. Hi Romane, thanks for your comment.
      It could be a great scenario to keep our lifestyle as it is now. But realistically, it seems quite complicated: just by the fact that we are more and more around the globe and also that we have so much to compensate for to reach at most +1.5°C by 2050.
      To do this, we must not rely solely on new technologies because it will take time for them to become part of our world, if we manage to create and develop them!
      So I think we have to start by changing some crucial elements of our consumption model and our way of life.


  8. I really enjoyed reading your article. It was very interesting to know more about the different scenarios proposed by the ADEME to reach carbon neutrality. I have some questions on the subject.
    The scenarios are very ambitious and very risky because they depend on everyone’s behavior.
    According to you, how could the government push people towards scenario 3 or 4? You mentioned a referendum or education on the subject, but do you think that awareness is enough to change lifestyles?
    The ADEME report presents scenarios from a French point of view. Do you think it is possible to have a common agreement between the different countries based on these scenarios?
    In your opinion, how can awareness be achieved globally and not only in the government of one country? Is it possible to agree on the actions to be taken between the different countries?
    Thank you in advance for your answer.


    1. Hello Elisa and first of all let me thank you for your comment.

      You have touched on a very sensitive aspect of each scenario: the world view of the human being.
      We don’t have a specific answer to give you for this precise question because it is one of the most delicate aspects to deal with.
      We know that the machine is in motion, and has been for a long time. But as you can see at the moment, it’s not enough to change the general mindset about global climate warning.
      We don’t think we should impose a drastic measure because that would provoke serious revolts and it would mean reversing decades of effort on the subject: it has to come from them, and that’s why it takes a long time.
      We have to explain to them, ask them what is really important, tell them the truth about what is happening now in order to involve them in our process, so yes, we think that awareness raising is the easiest and most effective way to achieve our goal, even if it takes a lot of time. Will it be enough? That will depend mainly on us. We think that we are the biggest variable in this problem, so we have to act and do the best we can.

      For your second set of questions, about finding a common agreement between the different countries on the basis of these scenarios, we will probably have to do that. We cannot be self-sufficient at the moment and we will not be self-sufficient for several decades, even if we decide now to do everything ourselves.
      We believe that mutualisation is the key to achieving our goals as quickly as possible. If each country concentrates, according to its environment, its population and the facilities it already has, on producing what it does best, we will be able to make great progress towards our goal. Here too, it is underway, but it will take time, but we must continue!

      I hope I have answered your question!


  9. Thanks for this article, which was interesting to read ! But I admit that I was a bit surprise by the near absence of « hydrogen potential » especially in transport (for exemple in buses). Last week I attend to a conference in Belfort on the hydrogen presented by some doctoral students of the UTBM and during this presentation I understood that it can be a strong solution for the future. What do you think about the opening of a new market with fleets of buses powered by hydrogen ? Do you think that it will be possible ?


    1. Hello Paul,
      First of all thanks for your comment, you’re completely right hydrogen has a huge potential in transportation.
      In the scenarios we do not mention it in particular because it’s mainly in electric vehicles rise.
      For me electric vehicles will be the main Turing point on transportation in a short term strategy, but with hydrogen we can also imagine a long term strategy for buses as you mentioned it, but also other transports like planes, but this still needs a lot of technological development, so it could be for sure included in the scenario 4 technological bet.


  10. First of all, thank you and congrats on this article. I do think that if we have to choose only one scenario, we should go for scenario n°3. On a long-term scale, it’s for me the more sustainable way to go to reach the Global Net Zero-emission target by 2050. As you mentioned, for some people it will be very tough to change their art of life and change their daily habits. If we are all motivated, we will succeed! The only drawback will be the influence of the government I think, they shouldn’t interfere too much in this transition to better habits by reducing the use of some objects that we own and are free to use.


    1. Thank you for your comment, I hope this article has helped and motivated you to be an actor in tomorrow’s world!


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